No money for courthouse but Gozo ministry promises it 'will be delivered'

Plans unveiled for a new Gozo courthouse two years ago have been scrapped as the Gozo Ministry ‘explores’ a new site for the project to replace the Citadella court • Expression of interest out soon

No money was voted for the project in Budget 2020, which raised eyebrows among people in the legal profession who have been clamouring for a new courthouse
No money was voted for the project in Budget 2020, which raised eyebrows among people in the legal profession who have been clamouring for a new courthouse

Updated at 2.15pm with Justyne Caruana parliamentary comment

Plans unveiled for a new Gozo courthouse two years ago have been scrapped as the Gozo Ministry ‘explores’ a new site for the project to replace the Citadella court.

No money was voted for the project in Budget 2020, which raised eyebrows among people in the legal profession who have been clamouring for a new courthouse.

The first confirmation that previous plans were abandoned was given by Gozo Minister Justyne Caruana in a parliamentary reply to questions by Nationalist MP Chris Said.

Caruana told Parliament last week that her ministry was “exploring a more central site” but could not give details.

Follow-up questions sent by MaltaToday to determine whether the plans unveiled in November 2017 for a courthouse between Xewkija and Victoria have been scrapped were met with a similar short answer.

“The courthouse is a project that will be delivered. At the moment, we are exploring a new site which was not available earlier but we are still at discussion stage,” the ministry replied. No further detail was given and questions as to why Budget 2020 did not contain an allocation for the project remained unanswered.

The courthouse saga has been going on for the past few years with no progress whatsoever. Caruana’s predecessor, Anton Refalo, had unveiled plans for a new courthouse in Victoria for which a planning permit was obtained in 2016.

However, after the 2017 general election, Caruana, the incoming minister, unveiled new plans for a different site on the outskirts of Xewkija. The reason for abandoning the original plans was put down to inadequate geology at the Victoria site.

Now, a third location is being explored and no reason has been given yet for the change in direction.

The budget for the missed project has been diminishing year after year. In Budget 2018, €450,000 were allocated in capital funding for the courthouse project but actual expenditure was of €5,192. Budget 2019 allocated €120,000 for the project.

And next year no money has been made available.

Expression of interest to be issued

In Parliament on Wednesday, Justyne Caruana said an expression of interest will soon be issued for a more central location for the new law courts, confirming once again government's intention to have a new courthouse for Gozo.

She was speaking in Parliament on the budget vote for her ministry.

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