Magistrate may be called to testify in constitutional case over request for her recusal

Lawyers considering whether to summon Magistrate Donatelle Frendo Dimech, whose recusal they are requesting, to testify in their constitutional case

Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech
Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech

Lawyers appearing for a man who is challenging the law regulating requests for the recusal of members of the judiciary had told a court that they are considering whether to summon the magistrate whose recusal they are requesting to testify in their constitutional case.

The directors of Waste Collection Limited, 39-year-old Muscat and his father Marius Muscat, 64, had both been convicted of fraud and using a false document to bid for a €335,300 contract in 2022.

Marius Muscat had been handed a 16-month sentence, suspended for 18 months, while Adrian Muscat received a 22-month sentence, suspended for two years.

The sentences were confirmed by the Court of Criminal Appeal in May.

In November 2021, before the case was decided, Adrian Muscat’s lawyer Matthew Brincat had requested the recusal of Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech pointing to comments made by Frendo Dimech early on in the proceedings. The magistrate had refused the request. He subsequently repeated his request at appeal stage, asking for the case to be declared null and sent back to the Court of Magistrates for a retrial. 

The man is claiming that his right to a fair hearing had been breached when the presiding magistrate had expressed an opinion about the case before hearing the evidence.

In a sitting before Mr Justice Grazio Mercieca this morning, the lawyers told the court that they would prefer not to have to summon the magistrate to the stand, and that the testimony of the plaintiff and lawyer Matthew Brincat should suffice. 

Muscat’s lawyers Jason Azzopardi, José Herrera, Franco Debono and Matthew Xuereb informed the court that they have two main witnesses: their client and lawyer Matthew Brincat, who would testify about the incident. They added that they were as yet undecided as to whether they should also summon the magistrate herself.

“To be honest, we do not wish to summon Frendo Dimech, as Brincat’s testimony should suffice.” Furthermore, Muscat himself was told things by the magistrate,” the lawyers said. 
The case will continue on November 2.

Lawyer Julian Farrugia is representing the Office of the State Advocate in the proceedings.