Philip Sciberras, judge and former Labour MP, passes away aged 77

Former Labour MP in second Mintoff administration who later was appointed judge, passes away at 77

Former judge Philip Sciberras
Former judge Philip Sciberras

Philip Sciberras, the former Labour MP who in his later years was appointed a judge, has passed away. He was 77, and was days away from what would have been his birthday on 7 October. Sciberras died from a terminal illness.

The death was announced by his son Andrew. "It is with great sorrow that we announce the loss of our dear father and loving husband Philip Sciberras after a long battle with a terminal illness. Papa passed away peacefully surrounded by his family."

Andrew described his father as "a giant who bequeathed the country and the profession he loved so much with his profound knowledge and wisdom in law and literature". 

A poet and a writer, the lawyer went on to become an MP in the second Mintoff legislature in 1979 following the resignation of Ġużè Abela. He was later elected in the 1981 election, but was not re-elected in subsequent elections.

In 2002, he was appointed as a judge, serving eight years up until pensionable age, having handled no less than 2,529 judgements, with 69 rendered on his last day in office. “Every aspiring judge must understand that trust is not only eroded by acts of corruption or favouritism but also by laziness, negligence, and insensitivity because these are grave failings,” Sciberras said in his farewell speech from the bench.

“As Calamandrei said in his work ‘Elogio dei Guidici’, the judge belongs to that religious order where, if anyone tarnishes its reputation and is not a good example, believers lose faith. The work of a judge has no rest. This is being said because, as you know, I managed to avoid as much as I could, postponements in the delivery of judgments, and this without any extra pressure on the lawyers.”

A founder of the Moviment Qawmien Litterarju of the 1960s, his published works included Priżmi, with Lawrenz Cachia (1968), Dawl fil-Persjani (1972), Mandala (1984), and Mirja (2014).

In addition to his legal publications, he embarked on a monumental, 10-volume reference work, L-Alfabett tal-Kodici Civili (The Alphabet of the Civil Code).

Married to Rose, Sciberras had three children – all lawyers by profession – the women’s rights activist Lara Dimitrijevic, former Labour mayor Alex Sciberras, and Andrew Sciberras.