Judge flags transcription backlog bottleneck to Minister, Court administration

Judge warns backlog of court sitting transcripts is leading to fundamental rights breaches

Cour (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Cour (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

A judge has called on the Justice Minister and the Director of the Criminal Courts to address the bottleneck caused by the backlog of court sitting transcripts, warning that it was leading to fundamental rights breaches.

Insufficient administrative resources were flagged in a note dictated in the Criminal Court by Madam Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera, after she was unable to uphold a request for bail filed by two people charged with burglary earlier this month because transcripts of relevant witness testimony were not yet available.

On 16 April, the judge had meant to give a ruling on a bail request filed by Mario and Charlotte Zammit who had been accused of the aggravated theft of over €2,300 from a residence in Żejtun on 1 March. The pair were also charged with having caused damage during the robbery, and breaching previous court decrees. The Zammits had not been granted bail during their arraignment.

The compilation of evidence against them had since begun with a number of witnesses having now testified and the case file sent to the Attorney General for review.

Lawyer Mark Busuttil had filed an application for bail on the Zammits’ behalf before the Criminal Court. But in a note delivered on 16 April, the judge observed that she could not make a ruling on the request as the case file was incomplete.

The delays in transcribing witness testimony were causing “serious administrative shortcomings” that were breaching defendants’ fundamental right to request bail.

Madam Justice Scerri Herrera called on the Justice Minister and the Director of the Criminal Courts to take note of the situation and take the necessary steps to ensure that it is addressed.