Chamber of Advocates condemns magistrate’s dressing down of AG lawyer

The Chamber of Advocates has expressed solidarity with lawyer Angele Vella from the Attorney General’s office and deplored Magistrate Joe Mifsud’s courtroom outburst against her

Magistrate Joe Mifsud (left) emerging from the law courts in Valletta (File photo)
Magistrate Joe Mifsud (left) emerging from the law courts in Valletta (File photo)

The Chamber of Advocates has condemned a magistrate’s courtroom outburst against a prosecutor during a compilation of evidence earlier this month.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Chamber expressed solidarity with the lawyer in question.

It made reference to an incident which took place earlier this month, during the latest sitting in the compilation of evidence against Roderick Cassar, who is accused of the femicide of his ex-wife, Bernice.

During that sitting, prosecutor Angele Vella from the Office of the Attorney General had informed presiding magistrate Joe Mifsud that she had requested records of mediation proceedings between Bernice and Roderick Cassar and was waiting for a decision by presiding Judge Abigail Lofaro on her application to exhibit the records from the family court in the criminal case.

While Vella was suggesting that the director of courts could undertake to exhibit them, the magistrate angrily interrupted her mid-sentence, shouting that this should have been done in previous sittings and remarking that the court should not make good for the AG "sleeping on the job."

“If you wanted this evidence, you should have exhibited it at the beginning of the case,” Mifsud had said, commenting that this had contributed to the Office of the Attorney General losing recent trials by jury.

Vella had stuck to her guns, interrupting the magistrate and telling the court that this was not the place to discuss juries, before explaining that the prosecution needed this evidence to show that separation proceedings had already been started, because it was the catalyst for the murder.

For her pains, the prosecutor was ordered to stand in the dock beside the accused, the magistrate angrily remarking that he would teach prosecutors a lesson and “find [her] in contempt once and for all.”

Vella had obeyed the order and proceeded to stand in the dock, where she was subjected to a harsh dressing-down by the court.

The Chamber of Advocates described Magistrate Mifsud’s behaviour as unseemly and deplored both his comments as well as his order that the prosecutor join the accused in the dock.

Those actions exceeded the remit within which the court was exercising its functions, said the Chamber in a statement. The magistrate’s comments served no purpose other than to humiliate the prosecutor while carrying out her duties and their effect was a loss of public trust in the judiciary, reads the statement, which urged the courts to respect the lawyers appearing before it and refrain from making comments of a personal nature or of a general nature with regards to the Office of the Attorney General, which has an important role in the justice system.