You’ll have your botched day in court

I’ll never forget the winter when I was served with a summons to appear in front of a Local Tribunal for nonpayment of a traffic fine.

I’d gone abroad to write a feature for a travel magazine and had left my car in its usual place in front of the house. There was a ragged scrap of paper on it when I returned three weeks later, faded by the sun and crusted with dust, but it was barely legible.

I fished it out of a drawer and compared it with the summons. It was a ticket, sure enough. But it accused me of driving the wrong way up a one-way street, a feat which was clearly impossible given that I was thousands of kilometres away at the time.

I set to work preparing my case. I would represent myself, setting the scene with dramatic flare and, just as tensions reached their highest point, I’d whip out copies of my air tickets and boarding passes, proving that no, I could not possibly have been seen driving the wrong way down a one way street in Zejtun because I was in Africa.

Chairman, members of the audience, I rest my case.

My day in court finally arrived. The small, windowless waiting room held all the nervous anticipation of a dentist’s office without the expired magazines. Men tugged at confining collars. A lady mopped her brow with a scented handkerchief. The only sound of shuffling paper came from the pages of the book I’d brought along.

I heard shouting from inside the Tribunal chamber where a defendant seemed to be yelling at the Chair, and the Chair and a policeman were yelling back. And then I was called.

“Ryan Murdock of Triq Santa Marija?”

“Yes.”

“You’re accused of overspeeding,” the Chair said, “and you failed to pay the fine.”

“But that’s not right…” I said, momentarily thrown into confusion. “The ticket I received — I have it here — it says I was driving the wrong way…”

I fumbled to pull it out of a folder bulging with boarding passes, reservations, and a glossy magazine.

“Wait a moment,” she said, looking more closely at her papers. “Wait a moment… No. No, it’s alright, you can go.”

“Excuse me?”

“The date is wrong. The year is 2011, but this ticket says 2012. It’s dated one year in the future.” She shrugged. “You’re free to go.”

“But that’s not the issue at all…” I tried to say. “The ticket wasn’t right in the first place. I wasn’t even in Malta… I was in Africa…” But it was impossible for anyone to hear me because the entire courtroom had broken into laughter.

The Chair was laughing. The man on the bench beside her was laughing and shaking his head. Even the policemen and the stenographers were laughing.

I was stunned into immobility as what began as a light chuckle grew into generalized cackling.

“You don’t understand,” the man on the bench said, waving my ticket in the air and wiping a tear from his eye. “You’re free to go!”

Through a voice choked with laughter, the Chair said, “It’s your lucky day!”

“My god,” I said, turning to my wife. “This is exactly what Kafka was writing about.”

I heard the Chair banging the gavel spasmodically as we backed out the door.

My experience was comical in hindsight, but Malta’s courts have a long track record of such incompetence, and it robs individuals and families of justice.

Just a few weeks ago, a case against a man who struck and killed a motorcyclist with his car was dismissed on a technicality because the police charge sheet contained four mistakes — this despite the fact that the driver had admitted he was at fault.

This week, extradition proceedings against an accused drug trafficker wanted by the Italians hit a roadblock when the prosecution failed to give the court the correct paperwork.

In March, a man who admitted to injuring his mother in a domestic violence case had his charges dismissed because police wrote the wrong year on the charge sheet.

A more serious case from 2012 saw charges against four people— three policemen and a Paceville bouncer — accused of assaulting a French student dismissed because the wrong village had been written on the charge sheet.

While some of these incidents might be attributed to carelessness or incompetence, other ‘botched cases’ have a stink of deliberate sabotage.

Attorney General Victoria Buttigieg’s short record has been plagued with them.

Charges of attempted bribery against Charles Mercieca and Gianluca Caruana Curran, lawyers for accused murder mastermind Yorgen Fenech, were dismissed because the government’s top lawyer failed to write the correct offence on the paperwork.

Months earlier, Buttigieg struck a plea deal with Darren ‘it-Topo” Debono to drop charges of attempted murder of police officers in exchange for his testimony against his co-accused Vince Muscat — testimony that Debono then refused to provide.

She was also criticised in the report of the board of the public inquiry into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia for advising Konrad Mizzi that he could sign a controversial Electrogas security of supply agreement without the approval of Cabinet or parliament. She was deputy AG at the time.

Former head of the Economic Crimes Unit Ian Abdilla also pulled the ol’ botched paperwork trick when he sent a request to Dubai for information on Yorgen Fenech’s 17 Black. He never received a reply because the forms hadn’t been filled out correctly.

Other cases were never started at all due to police inaction.

The Economic Crimes Unit failed to take action against Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri despite a hand-delivered report from the head of the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit.

The police still haven’t prosecuted the top brass of Pilatus Bank despite receiving clear orders to do so after a 2021 magisterial inquiry.

They didn’t get around to issuing an international arrest warrant for Ryan Schembri for seven years.

And they failed to enforce a European arrest warrant for gaming consultant Iosif Galea, only attempting to grab him when they learned the Germans might get him first.

In each of these suspiciously botched cases, the accused had clear political connections.

By the time I left Malta, it felt like a place where anything could be done to you if you were a foreigner, and nothing would happen.

Watching the court system in action only reinforces this view.

                           
                               
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Godfrey Leone Ganado
Godfrey Leone Ganado
1 month ago

Apart from stupidity, a National copyright, one shudders at the ease with which persons in posts of great responsibility, like the Commissioner of Police and the AG, get things conveniently wrong to appease their Mafia bosses, surely not for a song.
Yet, instead of resigning, when they should actually be arrested and criminally charged for collusion, they resort to their inbred arrogance.
Pilatus bank, represents the Commissioners of Police, giving solidly and constantly, their middle finger to the judge, who, in the Egrant inquiry report, ordered them to initiate proceedings against the directors.
Whatever or however these idiots, take it against Repubblika, it gives us crystal clear proof of their collusion in impunity, and how they are afraid of losing whatever personal benefits they may be receiving.
Keep it up Repubblika, and rest assured of our solidarity, and commitment to fight back against whatever defensive action, these rent seekers throw at you.

Joe Genovese
Joe Genovese
1 month ago

“A more serious case from 2012 saw charges against four people— three policemen and a Paceville bouncer — accused of assaulting a French student dismissed because the wrong village had been written on the charge sheet.”

The police officer recording the incident also got the time wrong.

The incident referred to a brawl in a night club, which was recorded on the charge sheet as having occurred around 11pm……when in fact it erupted in the wee hours of the following morning.

Meaning? The officer having got the date wrong as well.

Last edited 1 month ago by Joe Genovese
Evarist Saliba
1 month ago

Malta is very eager to prove Kafka right .Not only are such mistakes on a regular basis unpardonable, they are also prime examples that the Rule of Law in Malta, is often applied through incompetence, carelessness or connivance, to thwart the course of JUSTICE, because in Mickey Mouse Malta, the application, or misapplication of the law comes before justice.
Government is proud of this distinction and projects Malta as the best and sets an example for the rest of the world to follow.

joe tedesco
joe tedesco
1 month ago

MALTA HAS COLLAPSED TOTALLY WITH ALL INSTITUTIONS FAILING
THE PUBLIC.THE ROT HAS COMPLETELY SET IN.

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