Victoria Buttigieg to be appointed as the first State Advocate

The Attorney General's powers have been shorn after legislation introduced following a Venice Commission recommendation • Peter Grech will remain chief prosecutor

Victoria Buttigieg, 43, will be occupying the post of State Advocate after being unanimously recommended to the post by an Appointment Commission, following a public call.  

Buttigieg will be the first person to ever occupy this newly created constitutional post, enacted by a legislation, which was approved last July but is soon to enter into force following the completion of the selection process.

It provides for a separation between the existing dual functions of the Attorney General. While the Attorney General, Peter Grech, as a result of this reform will retain the responsibility for prosecutions and criminal matters as chief prosecutor, the State Advocate will be responsible for all government advisory and legal representation functions in the field of constitutional, civil and administrative law which are up till now exercised by the Attorney General as well.

The Venice Commission, in its opinion on Malta of the 17 December 2018, had proposed the separation of the dual roles of the Attorney General among other things.  

The Minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government Owen Bonnici hailed this appointment as being a first in our legal history and it gains more significance in the light of the fact the Office of the Attorney General has exercised dual functions since 1936 when it was set up in its current form and designation. 

“Through this process, the government is clearly showing its commitment to implement reforms towards the strengthening of the Rule of Law and the separation of powers in our country,” Bonnici said.  He explained that this reform, which also entails the establishment of the Office of the Attorney General as an independent prosecution service, is an implementation of a major recommendation of the Venice Commission and will prove to be an important step forward in the justice sector.

The State Advocate will enjoy the same level of protection and security of tenure as enjoyed by the Members of the Judiciary and the Attorney General. The State Advocate is to be the chief legal advisor to the government in matters of law and legal opinion and will be explicitly obliged to act in the public interest and to safeguard the legality of state actions. The State Advocate will carry out her functions through an independent agency established by through the State Advocates Act. 

The Appointment Commission was chaired by Mr Justice Emeritus Michael Mallia.

Victoria Buttigieg, 43, graduated as Doctor of Laws from the University of Malta in 2001 after which she furthered her studies and was awarded a Master of Arts in Financial Services. Since 2007 she has been working at the Office of the Attorney General and today occupies the post of Assistant Attorney General.  She has worked extensively in the field of litigation, with a specialisation in civil, administrative and constitutional law and has represented government at various international meetings and committees. She has also contributed to a number of law reform projects.

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