[WATCH] PN calls on government to refer magistrate's nomination to justice watchdog

Opposition MP Jason Azzopardi says government has nothing to lose by going to Commission of the Administration of Justice

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The Nationalist Party has called on the Prime Minister to refer the nomination of Caroline Farrugia Frendo as magistrate to the Commission of the Administration of Justice, in order to remove any doubt regarding her appointment.

Shadow minister for justice Jason Azzopardi said the government had nothing to lose by going to the judiciary watchdog to clear the nomination of 33-year-old Farrugia Frendo, a court attorney since October 2015, as magistrate. “High profile figures have repeatedly challenged this appointment and the government should listen to their voice,” Azzopardi said.

On Monday, judge emeritus Giovanni Bonello – who led a commission on judicial reform – said on TVM’s Reporter that the Commission’s advice should be sought on the appointment of the magistrate.  “Not doing so could lead to mayhem in the courts if judgments handed down by a magistrate are considered null and void by a Constitution Court ruling further on,” he said.

The same concern was voiced by the Dean of the faculty of laws and Constitutional expert Kevin Aquilina. “There are some grey areas in this appointment. Areas which need the advise of the Commission.”

In comments to the press outside the justice ministry, Azzopardi said it was “in the interest of the lawyer herself, of justice, and of society that we guarantee that the appointment is legal and constitutional. What sense of justice can there be if the person occupying a role does so unconstitutionally? It will be a parody.”

The PN also appealed to the President to safeguard the Constitution, saying it was the President’s duty to see that no oaths of offices are handed out in unconstitutional manners. “The government should at least respect those persons appointed constitutionally and listen to their calls for the Constitution to be upheld.”

Azzopardi recalled that while in the past, judicial assistants were appointed to the role of magistrate, the court attorneys’ duties are different. “They do not hear witnesses, issue decrees or examine evidence, unlike judicial assistants.”

Also present at the press conference was PN election candidate Aaron Micallef. He commented that the report produced by the Bonello Commission has been ignored for 28 months. “The justice minister is ridiculing the Bonello Commission and should desist from appointing new individuals until after the justice reform.”