Parties agree on legal aid for suspects facing police interrogation

The government and the opposition agreed on the introduction of legislation introducing effective legal representation for suspects while under arrest and during interrogation by the police • Opposition spokesman calls for parliamentary committee for home affairs and national security

Malta to introduce right for suspect to be attended by lawyer during interrogation
Malta to introduce right for suspect to be attended by lawyer during interrogation

All police interrogations of suspects will be filmed and recorded under a new bill that also introduces the concept of legal representation during interrogation for the first time in Malta.

Under the provisions of the bill – which parliament started debating on Monday – police will no longer be able to interrogate suspects without the presence of a lawyer, according to Justice Minister Owen Bonnici.

The minister said the right to effective legal aid was recognised in all other EU member states and that the bill sought to guarantee the suspect’s rights without hindering police investigative powers.

He said that this right to a lawyer during interrogation would complement the many other amendments and rights that had already been introduced by this administration in the field of criminal justice, such as the introduction of pleas bargaining, informing suspects of their rights while under arrest, and the adoption of a citizens’ charter by the law courts.


Opposition calls for parliamentary committee for home affairs and national security

Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi has called for the creation of a parliamentary committee for home affairs, that can scrutinise laws and legal notices falling under the ministry for home affairs and national security in a bid to tackle organised crime in a bipartisan setting.

The shadow justice minister said that the committee would also scrutinise policy and spending under the ministerial portfolio, the processing of personal data with respect to laws that serve to protect the public, as well as to collect reports from ministry entities on their operations.

“This would be a committee, as the British one is, presided by the Opposition and which holds its sittings in camera, and whose members will be bound by confidentiality matters that fall under national security, except for the scrutiny of spending for the purposes of accountability and transparency.

“Let’s put aside all partisan blinkers. I appeal to our sense of duty… so that we can fight organised crime in a serious way,” Azzopardi said.

The MP was referring to recent episodes of criminality which recently saw the death of a Naxxar businessman after he was murdered by a car bomb in Bugibba.

Azzopardi said that many people were worried that the criminals carrying out such car bomb attacks appeared to be acting in impunity, as the police had so far failed to solve any of the major car bomb attacks in recent years.

“The brain drain in the police force in the past three years – 389 officers left the force since June 2013 – has certainly not helped the force, or the quality of the police investigations,” he said.

People were, for example, allowed to trample all over the scene of last week’s car bombing, so much so that even forensic expert Anthony Abela Medici commented on how the scene had been compromised.

“Organised crime is a threat to the rule of law, to the state, and to every law-abiding citizen in the country,” he said.