‘Legal experts should not be treated as oracles’ – former minister Mallia

Labour MP Manuel Mallia warns that clauses within Bill to decriminalise non-extreme pornography and vilification of Roman Catholicism 'subject to interpretation'

Former home affairs minister Manuel Mallia gave a rare speech in Parliament, in which he warned that legal experts shouldn’t be taken as oracles.

“In this modern Maltese age, we tend to quote professors and retired judges to prove our arguments,” he said. “While I respect their opinions, this does not mean that they are oracles and that we should accept their suggestions all the time.”

He was speaking during a parliamentary debate on a Bill that proposes the decriminalization of the vilification of the Roman Catholicism. In an earlier speech, shadow justice minister Jason Azzopardi quoted law faculty dean Kevin Aquilina who had said that the decriminalization of Roman Catholicism – a state symbol – could “mean that other state symbols such as the Maltese flag risk becoming valueless and a sham”.

Mallia has been a silent figure in the House since he was sacked as minister in December 2014 over a shooting incident involving his driver. However, he was in full spirit today, pointing out clauses within the Maltese version of the Bill that could be subject to legal interpretation.

Notably, he argued that while the proposed legal package proposes the decriminalization of non-extreme pornography, it doesn’t legally define “extreme”.

“The Bill says that the justice minister [Owen Bonnici] will publish the regulations at a later date, but with all due respect we have a right to know what he considers extreme and acceptable before the law is passed.” 

Also, he said that the Bill doesn’t provide an adequate legal definition for ‘public spaces’, in which the display of pornography will be banned.

“If a group of friends are watching a pornographic film at home, then that could be legally interpreted as people watching pornography in a public space as the host would have invited the guests to his place,” he said.

Mallia also used his speech to urge Bonnici to address legal that have arisen since the drugs law reform was passed last year.

Since the law passed, the Magistrate’s Court – in cases not involving the use of weapons or explosives- is able to convert itself into a Drugs Court - and refer the accused to the Rehabilitation Board.

However, Mallia – a criminal lawyer by profession – warned that people who were charged by the Magistrates’ Court before the reform passed and have since appealed are unable to have their cases deferred to a Drugs Court.

“Judges Edwina Grima and Antonio Mizzi are denying their claims as the original cases were under a magistrates’ court,” he said, describing this as “injustice”.

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