Government exploring replacements for Gozo Court premises

The Court Services Agency issued a preliminary market consultation for a new court building in Gozo

The Court Services Agency (CSA) is exploring opportunities to set up a new Gozo Court in Victoria (Rabat) to replace the existing building deemed inadequate by many.  

The agency issued a preliminary market consultation on Friday to receive proposals or information on properties in the Gozo capital that can be used as a modern Court Building.  

In the consultation document, the CSA notes that the existing premises housing the Gozo Law Courts are no longer fit for purpose.  

This is in part due to recent legislation that requires all public buildings to be accessible to people with limited mobility, including wheelchair users.  

The existing building is a scheduled site, making it difficult for the CSA to upgrade the premises as necessary.  

There are several requirements that need to be fulfilled by the new property and land. It must be easily accessible through public transparent with at least 10 parking spaces or a public car parking facility close by. 

In addition, it must have a total minimum Gross Floor Area of 1,850sqm with any one floor having a minimum floor area of 450sqm, so that it can accommodate a hall with supporting amenities for judiciary teams. 

The property must be located within the Development Zone, must be freehold and vacant, and standalone with no third-party easements or overlap onto third party premises. It cannot be scheduled, but if scheduled, must be Grade 3 or lower.  

It must also be covered by a valid proof of ownership and vacant or undeveloped. It cannot be located within Natura 2000 sites, zones of ecological, scientific, archaeological and conservation importance, and industrial or large-scale industry zone.  

In the same document, the CSA gives a brief history of the building housing the Gozo Law Courts today.  

It explains that the building was known as the Court of Magistrates of Judicial Police for the Islands of Gozo and Comino. This Court was established in 1814 by a Proclamation issued by the first British Governor of Malta.  

While the Gozo Law Courts served the sister island well over the years, the premises were no longer deemed adequate as court cases increased and the daily functions of the court become more complex.  

Many have complained over the poor conditions of the Victoria courthouse. Lawyers in Gozo went on two strikes last year as the court lacks trained and qualified staff, leaving deputy registrars with major difficulties.  

They had complained that certain documents go missing, while injunctions are not being processed on time, with hearings taking place without a summons having been processed.  

Sitting transcripts were not being made on time, court files and documents were being lost and not logged on the court registry IT system, and decrees were not being communicated.  

The registry’s shortcomings were causing work to spill over into the magistrates’ chambers as lawyers who were not being served in the registry would then go there to obtain the documents required. 

Deputy registrars were having to search through piles of loose acts to find those yet to be notified, pointed out the group. 

The lawyers alleged that Court registry staff were requesting transfers due to the confusion, also pointing out that there was no Assistant Registrar in charge, a fact which lead to delays in the processing of urgent warrants and garnishees. 

There were also serious shortcomings in the electronic systems which led to sittings being delayed, as well as problems with the court WiFi which did not even allow access to the court’s own website.