[WATCH] Updated | Chief prosecutor to be separate role from Attorney General

Justice Minister Owen Bonnici said the government would be presenting a Bill in parliament on Monday to hive off the AG's role as a prosecutor • Review of Ombudsman, police and positions of trust also announced

Justice Minister Owen Bonnici
Justice Minister Owen Bonnici

The government will be tabling a Bill in parliament on Monday that will look to separate the powers of the Attorney General among other changes, Justice Minister Owen Bonnici said on Thursday.

Addressing a press conference, Bonnici said that, in line with the recommendations made by the Venice Commission, government will be tabling a Bill that will seek to separate the Attorney General’s role as prosecutor and legal counsel to the government.

"Up till now the General Prosecutor and the Attorney General have been one and the same. Instead of wearing two hats, this will be separated into two roles for two separate individuals," Bonnici said.

He added that for for the first time since independence, there would be to separate individuals responsible for the two roles.  

Bonnici said the Bill’s first reading would be on Monday, with the government hoping to have the constitution amended by the end of summer.

The minister said, a hundred days after the Venice Commission had published the report about Malta’s institutions, he was writing to the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Venice Commission, informing them of the development.

Bonnici said talks with the Opposition would start immediately since the proposed changes would require a two-thirds majority in parliament, insisting however that limiting the AG’s powers was at this stage a priority.  

The minister said that government would be looking to reform the manner in which members of judiciary are appointed, making it independent of the government.

Moreover, he said cabinet had also given him a mandate to start a legislative process through which amendments will be made to five other areas that were the subject of recommendations by the Venice Commission including, the Ombudsman, positions of trust, permanent secretaries, independent commissions and the police.

Bonnici said that drafts of the Bills would be published in the coming weeks, with the government looking to have them approved by the end of the year.   

Nationalist Party reaction

In a reaction Thursday afternoon, the PN noted that the government had, after pressure from the Opposition, announced that it would by June we splitting the AG’s roles, as had been recommended by the Venice Commission. The government, it went on to highlighted, had also said that the Commission’s other suggestions would not be put into place before end 2019. This, the PN said, was due to the fact that the government had failed to prepare itself and hadn’t listened to the Opposition’s advice to implement the Commission’s recommendations immediately.

“In the meantime, experts such as former Judge Giovanni Bonello maintain that the government has now taken control of the appointment of the judiciary, the management of the army and various other institutions which should be autonomous and independent,” the PN said.

“Our country needs to see concrete measures introduced which strengthen democracy, together with important changes which while ensure the proper functioning and independence of Malta’s institutions, so that they can truly serve the people.”

“The Nationalist Party will once again be making sure that the government truly implement the Venice Commission’s recommendations, which were clear and similar to what the Opposition had been saying for a long time,” it underscored.

“After years of resisting reforms, the government now had no choice but to accept that which the Opposition has been for months requesting to be implemented.”

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