Silvio Zammit files judicial protest calling for amendment to Criminal Code

Zammit is calling on the Justice Minister to change the Criminal Code to empower magistrates to declare prosecution evidence closed if the Attorney General brings no evidence for a number of sittings

Silvio Zammit is the defendant in a case in which he is accused of trading in influence and complicity in bribery, dating back several years
Silvio Zammit is the defendant in a case in which he is accused of trading in influence and complicity in bribery, dating back several years

Businessman Silvio Zammit has filed a judicial protest against government, calling on Justice Minister Owen Bonnici to change a provision of the Criminal Code to empower magistrates to declare prosecution evidence closed after a number of sittings where the Attorney General brings no evidence.

Zammit is the defendant in a case, in which he is accused of trading in influence and complicity in bribery, dating back several years. He denies the charges.

The last remaining witness against him, Inge Delfoss, has refused to come to Malta to avoid incriminating herself and the Commissioner of Police and Attorney General have refused to declare their evidence closed until she does testify. This has led to an impasse whereby the case has been endlessly postponed.

In fact, last June, the court of Appeal in its Constitutional jurisdiction had found that Zammit’s fundamental human rights were being breached by the failure to conclude proceedings within a reasonable time.

“But despite being faced with such a judgment, which expressly declares that a person’s fundamental rights are being breached, in this case the Commissioner of Police and the Attorney General have since July 2018, done nothing.”

This continues to magnify the breach of Zammit’s rights, argue his lawyers Edward Gatt and Kris Busietta in the judicial protest filed today against the Attorney General, the Commissioner of Police and the Minister for Justice.

“With all due respect, that manner in which the Commissioner of Police and the Attorney General are completely and unabashedly ignoring what was said about them in the aforementioned judgment is truly worrying and deplorable.”

Although no court order was being disobeyed, the lawyers argued that the actions of the protested parties constituted “gross disrespect that certainly must be taken as contempt towards the spirit of the judgment given by the highest court in the land."

Maltese Criminal Law  gives the power to the Attorney General to decide when a magistrate’s court is to convert itself from one of criminal inquiry into one of criminal judicature and controversially it is only the AG who can decide to declare that the prosecution had no further evidence to produce.

“This right is leading to a great many abuses,” Zammit’s lawyers say, explaining that this power is leading to cases where different people being charged separately with the same crime were “racing” each other to see who would benefit from a plea bargain or ending up with different punishments.

The Courts of Magistrates has a large number of cases which are bogged down by the prosecution refusing to close its evidence because other accused still had pending proceedings against them. “All of these abuses are happening because of the discretion enjoyed by the Attorney General in deciding when to close the prosecution’s evidence, Zammit’s lawyers say.

“It follows, therefore, that the Minister for Justice, faced with an abusive situation and faced with a judgment in favour of the plaintiff from the Court of Appeal (Constitutional Jurisdiction) must immediately make amendments to the Criminal Code, empowering magistrates to declare prosecution evidence closed after a number of sittings where the Attorney General brings no evidence.”

Otherwise, warned the lawyers, the status quo of persons making quick agreements with the prosecutor to be eligible to testify against others, and others who, like Zammit, have a case that is uselessly prolonged and never decided, will persist.

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