[WATCH] PN calls for virtual court sittings as building remains closed due to COVID-19

Thousands being denied justice in court due to coronavirus while government remains too lethargic to put in place virtual system, Jason Azzopardi says

The PN on Monday held a press conference urging for the start of virtual court sittings
The PN on Monday held a press conference urging for the start of virtual court sittings

The Nationalist Party is urging the government to without delay put in place a technological system for court sittings to be heard virtually, as the physical building remains shut due to COVID-19.

PN MP and justice spokesperson Jason Azzopardi said that while other countries were holding electronic court sittings, in Malta tens of thousands of people, families and businesses have been denied justice since March because no such system is available.

"We urge the government to move out of its lethargic state and to treat this with the utmost seriousness. The Opposition supports the Chamber of Advocates proposals for courts to hold sittings virtually," Azzopardi said during a press conference on Monday.

He said the Opposition was ready to prompty, together with the government and stakeholders, draw up the necessary changes to the legal framework to allow court sittings to take place electronically.

"Let's be clear - there are challenges, and these will have to be overcome first. But, in the short term, it is unlikely our courts will start functioning again like they did in February. We believe the aim should be to use technology for courts to function while avoiding placing the public's health at risk or in danger."

Joining Azzopardi in his appeal to the government, Nationalist MP Beppe Fenech Adami said many were suffering - including those with pending cases before the family court concerning issues such as child maintance and access - because the courts were shut.

"We appeal to the government and all stakeholders to be proactive. Behind figures and staistics, there are people out there who are suffering," the party's home affairs spokesperson said.

PN MP Ivan J Bartolo called for the courts to become part of the current digital transformation.

"Can the digital transformation transform courts? The answer is yes, it can," the digital society spokesperson said.

Bartolo listed a number of ways technology could be used to make court more efficient, including through the utilisation of video conferencing, a dedicated mobile app for court appointments, and a way of checking progress in one's court case online.