Three months after Patrick Dalli, the husband of EU Commissioner and former Labour Party minister Helena Dalli, caused a ruckus in open court by shouting “mafia” at Chief Justice Mark Chetcuti and hurling insults at another two senior judges, contempt of court charges have not yet been filed against him.
Court sources confirmed to The Shift that while the Chief Justice failed to act on the spot as usually happens in such scenarios, the court registrar has not been instructed to present contempt to court charges against Dalli.
Neither Chief Justice Mark Chetcuti nor Court Registrar Eunice Grech Fiorini provided The Shift with any form of explanation when contacted about the court’s silence on the incident so far, which is causing rumblings among legal practitioners about the Chief Justice’s hold on his courtroom and the justice system in general.
Veteran legal professionals present in the courtroom on 31 May who witnessed Dalli’s outburst told The Shift that are perplexed about the situation.
“While Dalli may have felt aggrieved with the conclusions of the court of appeals decision, this does not mean his behaviour is to be tolerated. If this continues to remain unpunished, people will be right to think that there is a law for animals and another for gods,” a senior lawyer who witnessed Dalli’s insulting of the Chief Justice said.
“I have never seen such behaviour. As soon as the Chief Justice read out the sentence, Patrick Dalli ran into the area reserved for lawyers and in a packed courtroom addressed the Chief Justice, aggressively and in a high-pitched voice, telling him he should be ashamed of himself, that his court was corrupt and calling him ‘mafia’.”
“This was not some minor incident. Dalli’s rant went on for some five minutes, with all sorts of insults being thrown left right and centre at the three presiding judges and ending with Dalli throwing a paper at the Chief Justice himself,” another lawyer, also present during the incident, said.
Later, Dalli told the media that he wanted to pass a message that the court is corrupt and pointed his finger specifically at Judge Anthony Ellul and claimed he has a personal grudge against his family.
The other Judge Dalli insulted in the courtroom was Mr Justice Giannino Caruana Demajo.
It remains unknown why, despite the severity of the incident, no action has yet been taken against Dalli.
In other instances that were far less serious than the Dalli’s, Judges and Magistrates have taken punitive action and imposed hefty fines on those who either uttered the inappropriate word in court, failed to observe the dress code, used their mobile phones or arrived late for hearings, among other minor infringements.
Court sources said that while Dalli’s behaviour was inexcusable and should be punished, the particular Court of Appeal sentence involving Dalli’s son was somewhat incongruent with other similar judgements given by the same three judges presiding over the Court of Appeal.
They observed how in almost identical cases, such as that involving teenager Alexander Hickey, the same court took decisions that were diametrically opposed to that taken with respect to Dalli’s son, Jean-Marc Dalli.
In 2021, Dalli’s son was convicted of selling drugs at a party in Corradino back in 2013 after he was caught red-handed. He was sentenced to three months in prison.
In his appeal, he also filed a breach of rights case with the argument that he had not been accompanied by a lawyer when he gave his original statement to the police.
The latter case was dismissed twice, once at first instance and again on appeal. It was the second decision that was the cause of Dalli’s outburst in court.
A decision on the appeal over Jean-Marc Dalli’s prison sentence is still to be given.
Apart from being the husband of a former Labour politician, Dalli has a history of close ties with the party.
The brother of former Labour MP John Dalli, once Dom Mintoff’s right-hand man, Patrick Dalli is also a loyal supporter of disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat. He painted Muscat’s official portrait for Castille, which has been displayed discreetly by the Robert Abela administration in the Office of the Prime Minister’s Ambassador’s Room.
The OPM also purchased one of Dalli’s paintings for €15,000 by direct order, which many critics found to have been heavily overvalued.
In 2022, the government also sponsored a solo exhibition of Dalli’s paintings that cost taxpayers some €50,000.