Former state prosecutor did not access files related to Caruana Galizia case - inquiry

Inquiry into Charles Mercieca’s switch to Yorgen Fenech defence team finds it ‘does not appear’ junior lawyer accessed files on Caruana Galizia case, nor was he involved in related discussions

Lawyer Charles Mercieca
Lawyer Charles Mercieca

The former public prosecutor who left his job with the Attorney General to join Yorgen Fenech’s legal team did not have access to files related to the compilation of evidence against the suspected Caruana Galizia murder mastermind, an inquiry has found.

The inquiry also found that Mercieca was not involved in discussions related to the case.

The inquiry was ordered by justice minister Edward Zammit Lewis after Charles Mercieca, an inexperienced lawyer, left his job as public prosecutor with the AG’s Office in May to join Fenech’s defence team.

Mercieca’s switch led to criticism from the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly, which warned that “irreparable harm” could be done to the Caruana Galizia murder case.

The results of the inquiry - which was led by chief justice emeritus Joseph Azzopardi and was published on Thursday - found that the documents relating to the compilation of evidence against Fenech could not be accessed freely by Mercieca.

One of the copies of the documents is in Assistant Attorney General Philip Galea Farrugia’s possession, and kept under lock and key, while the other is kept at the court registry, and can only be accessed by asking the persons administering the registry for permission, the inquiry said.

It said that it didn’t appear that Mercieca ever asked to see the file at the registry.

“It does not appear Dr Mercieca ever consulted with the file since he was not involved in the relative prosecution,” the inquiry said.

“In any case, since these were copies of the court proceedings, there was not anything ‘secret’ in the file, since of course the original at the court’s registry is public.”

The inquiry also determiend that “there were no relative discussions at the Office involving Dr Mercieca.”

Lawyers with AG should be barred from switching

The inquiry, however, went on to recommend that lawyers employed at the AG’s Office should be barred from appearing for persons or companies against whom criminal or civil proceedings were instituted during the period in which they were working at the Office.

The inquiry board said there were currently not enough safeguards in place to protect “the image of correctness of the Office and that of the lawyers who leave the Office after serving a number of years [there].”

Terms of reference

The inquiry sought to answer the below terms of reference:

  • To determine where the compilation of evidence of Fenech was held at the Office of the AG and what systems are in place relative to restricting he access to the relative documentation;
  • To determine where the compilation and any copies therefrom were kept and to identify the public prosecutors at the said Office who had access to the compilation of evidence and copies;
  • To determine with whom discussions of the compilation were held and whether Mercieca was ever involved or present in such discussions;
  • To establish whether the contract of employment of public prosecutors, conditions of employment and the Code of Ethics applicable to public prosecutors at the AG’s Office provides sufficient safeguards of independence

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