Court mix-up nearly costs man €1,700

The man was told that a court sitting was cancelled only to have been been told later that he was found guilty in his absence

(File Photo)
(File Photo)

An administrative mix-up caused by the retirement of a judge would have cost a man €1,700 had it not been flagged by a lawyer.

Matthew Mifsud had been in court over a property-related dispute in which the police were subsequently involved. He was accused of taking the law into his own hands and building a concrete slab on his roof, causing damage to third party property.

At appeal stage, the case was heard by Mr. Justice Antonio Mizzi and put off for sentencing on 30 October 2018. On that date, the sentence was not given and the case was put off, once again for sentencing, to the 30 January 2019.

In the meantime however, Judge Mizzi retired and the case was assigned to Madam Justice Edwina Grima with the date of the sitting being shifted to the 25 January. Mifsud had been notified by post and over the phone of this date change.

However, some days before the sitting of the 25 January, Mifsud was called up again by the court usher and informed that the sitting was cancelled and was told that he should expect a new notification. He had informed his lawyer and nobody attended the sitting. 

But instead of receiving a new sitting notification, Mifsud received two orders for the immediate payment of €500 and €1,230.54, since he had been found guilty in his absence in a sitting held on 30 January 2019.

His lawyer, Jason Grima, immediately filed an appeal arguing that it was an unfortunate mix-up by the court authorities for which the accused had no fault. 

He further argued that the order for payment also specified the wrong date – 30 January (by which time judge Mizzi had retired) when it was actually given on January 25.

In his appeal application, Mifsud said he wouldn’t dream of abandoning his own appeal and that the case had been ongoing for some time and all that was left was the passing of judgment.

In a decree handed down on 1 March, Madam Justice Edwina Grima upheld the request, ordering that so as not to deny the man a fair hearing, the appeal hearing would be rescheduled to 8 May.