Third magistrate chosen to hear Daphne Caruana Galizia compilation of evidence

Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit has been appointed by the Chief Justice to hear the compilation of evidence against three men accused of murdering Daphne Caruana Galizia • First sitting scheduled for Tuesday morning

A new magistrate has been appointed to preside over the Caruana Galizia murder compilation of evidence
A new magistrate has been appointed to preside over the Caruana Galizia murder compilation of evidence

Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit will be the third member of the judiciary in the space of a week tasked to hear the compilation of evidence against the men charged with the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

She was appointed by Chief Justice Silvio Camilleri this afternoon after Magistrate Charmaine Galea recused herself on Monday morning. The first magistrate appointed to hear the case - Donatella Frendo Dimech - had also recused herself.

The compilation of evidence is a pre-trial stage during which the prosecution presents the evidence against the accused. The magistrate would have to decide whether there is enough prima facie evidence for the accused to stand trial.

So far the police have not even had the opportunity to start presenting their case since the two previous magistrates recused themselves following objections by the defence.

Following Monday morning's dramatic turn of events, lawyer Jason Azzopardi, who is appearing parte civile for the Caruana Galizia family, expressed his fear that the defence was simply playing for time. Unless a magistrate delivers a decision on the compilation of evidence within 30 days of the people being charged they would have to be released unconditionally or a request is made to the President for an extension.

Read also: How three men accused of murdering Daphne Caruana Galizia can escape justice

Frendo Dimech recused herself because she had been in the same school as Caruana Galizia's sister 34 years ago, while Galea withdrew because she had been the subject of the journalist's criticism on her appointment to the Bench in 2013.

Stafrace Zammit was appointed to the Bench in 2009 by then Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi. She previously worked with the law firm Abela Stafrace and Associates.

Her husband, Ian Stafrace, was also a lawyer with the same firm and for two years was the chief executive of the planning authority until his resignation soon after the 2013 election.

A quick search in Caruana Galizia's blog - Running Commentary - throws up nothing about Stafrace Zammit. There is, however, a blog post commenting about the magistrate's husband's resignation from the planning authority in 2013 in which she described him as "a good CEO and respected for it".

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