Victims of domestic violence face waits of over a year for court proceedings to start due to severe backlogs in cases, a lack of resources, and a broken system, according to legal professionals and experts who spoke to The Shift.
Cases filed today are scheduled to start in court in 2025, more than a year after they are reported, despite promises and ‘apologies’ by Prime Minister Robert Abela on the first anniversary of the Bernice Cassar case.
Cassar was murdered while waiting for her court case against her estranged husband to begin, with her family at a recent vigil on the first anniversary of her death, expressing dismay that nothing had changed and that no lessons had been learned.
These sentiments were echoed by a lawyer working with domestic violence cases who spoke to The Shift on condition of anonymity.
“So far, despite much lip service, justice is still not being served. The waiting time at the court due to lack of resources and a broken system is so bad that victims are either not reporting or even losing all interest in their case while waiting for their court case to start,” they said.
Another family lawyer went a step further: “Unfortunately, the situation is even worse than a year ago. The recommendations of the inquiry following the Cassar case have not been implemented, with the justice ministry all over the place, not having a clue how to solve the issues. Amendments to laws restricting the definition of domestic violence to better streamline the legal process have not even been presented to parliament”.
As of the end of October, 2,238 domestic violence cases are pending in court.
While the government appointed a second magistrate to deal with domestic violence cases, no real effect has been achieved as another magistrate dealing with such cases has been transferred to other issues.
This was also highlighted recently in parliament by the Nationalist Party Social Policy spokesman David Agius, who insisted that a wait of over a year to start a domestic violence court case is unacceptable.
So far this year, only 210 cases of domestic violence have been decided.
It is estimated that the police receive an average of three reports of domestic violence every day.