Daphne's laptop: Alfred Degiorgio's rights not infringed at this stage, court rules

The court concluded that the plaintiff was not suffering any prejudice at this stage when he himself had no idea as to the contents of the laptop and how it could help his case

Alfred Degiorgio is one of three men accused of the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia
Alfred Degiorgio is one of three men accused of the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia

The First Hall of the Civil Court in its Constitutional jurisdiction has rejected claims that police and prosecutors were breaching the rights of the men accused of killing Daphne Caruana Galizia by failing to demand the murdered journalist’s laptop from her family.

A lawyer acting on behalf of Alfred Degiorgio had filed a case against the Commissioner of Police and the Attorney General before the First Hall of the Civil Court in its Constitutional jurisdiction, arguing that the Commissioner of Police had failed to present all the evidence available to him and that the inquiring magistrate had also not insisted on it.

Degiorgio’s lawyer, William Cuschieri, had filed the Constitutional proceedings, arguing that it was important that the laptop is analysed as it “could contain sensitive information about third parties responsible for this murder.”

He said police were failing in their obligation and responsibility to collect all evidence both for and against the accused, accusing the Commissioner of Police of “having done nothing and doing nothing currently” to obtain the laptop.

Likewise he accused the Attorney General of “doing nothing to ensure that the evidence exhibited by him and the commissioner of Police is whole and complete and not partial and selective.”

He also said the Court of Magistrates as a court of criminal inquiry had done nothing to action an application by investigator Police Inspector Keith Arnaud, in which he claims that Caruana Galizia’s laptop had not been found and was thought to be in the possession of her family.

The laptop, which Caruana Galizia’s family says she would not have wanted to fall into the hands of the Maltese authorities, was later handed to the German police instead

In a judgment handed down on Thursday, Mr. Justice Mark Chetcuti said that the action filed was “very premature”.

“At the stage at which the complaint had been made, where no guilt or innocence of the plaintiffs could be determined as the evidence was still being collected, the court finds that the plaintiffs had no obstacle from asking the Court to use its powers…to order by legal means that this evidence be produced… to establish the facts.

At this stage it is too early to say whether there was evidence that could have been presented and hadn’t, and whether this failure was itself a cause of a breach of rights.”

The court added that the plaintiff was not suffering any prejudice at this stage when he himself had no idea as to the contents of the laptop and how it could help his case.

Therefore the request was premature, Chetcuti ruled. “Up till this stage of proceedings it cannot be said, even remotely, that the police or the courts are infringing the right to a fair hearing,” said the court, highlighting that the issue had still been before the compilation of evidence and no final and prejudicial decision to the plaintiff’s right to a fair hearing…had been made.”

The fact that today there was a formal Bill of Indictment against the plaintiff was no obstacle to Degiorgio asking the Criminal Court to ensure that evidence be exhibited. “The failure to utilise ordinary remedies cannot be substituted with a Constitutional case,” remarked the judge.

Degiorgio could request the exhibiting of the laptop through other means under the Criminal Code, said the judge, including a sworn application to the Duty Magistrate to open a magisterial inquiry to preserve the laptop in question.

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