The Judiciary

Although appointed by the President, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister, judges and magistrates are independent of the Executive. A person must have practiced as an advocate in Malta for a period of not less than seven years to qualify for appointment as a magistrate, and twelve years to qualify for appointment as a judge. Judges and magistrates enjoy security of tenure and they can only be removed by the President in the event of proved inability to perform the functions of their office (whether arising from infirmity of body or mind or from any other cause) or proved misbehaviour upon an address by the House of Representatives supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds of all members thereof.

In the words of one jurist, the separation of powers which exists in Malta is not a strict and sharp one, of the American or French pattern, but is more of the nature of checks and balances, such as we find in Britain from where the system was originally obtained. Consequently the Courts are independent from the executive in the discharge of their duties. Like English judges they do not hold office at the pleasure of the Executive; and their salaries, a recurrent charge on the Consolidated Fund, do not require annual sanction.

The influence of Roman Law and of the Napoleonic Codes is easily identified in present day Maltese Law, particularly civil law. English Law has, since the early part of the last century, had its fair share of influence in criminal procedure, certain areas of criminal law, public law and in particular the law relating to merchant shipping. Maltese criminal law always adopted the maxim of English practice: guilt, not innocence, has to be proved.

The judges have been for the most part Maltese and have included some eminent jurists. Occasionally, Chief Justices of the calibre of Sir Arturo Mercieca (who was later exiled) stood up to arbitrary and illegal British measures or enactments in the worst days of colonialism. Another bold judgement was that in the 1940s by Mr Justice A J Montanaro Gauci, himself an Anglophile, on the illegality of deportation orders. Others were not always as courageous but on the whole the bench retained a fair measure of dignity and respect. While delays have tended to characterise judgements, the Maltese public looks up to the Courts as a source of redress, and rather likes using them, especially in libel cases.

In 1964 a Constitutional Court was established as the final Maltese appellate Court. Apart from a period of three years in the early 1970s, when this Court remained unconstituted, it has redressed grievances including a number of cases relating to human rights.

In 1987 Malta adopted the European Convention on Human Rights as part of its laws and Maltese citizens have the right to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights which is made up of judges from each of the member states of the Council of Europe (including Malta).


The Maltese Courts:

The courts are divided into Superior and Inferior courts.

The Superior Courts are:

Judges sit in the Superior Courts.

The Inferior Courts are the Court of Magistrates (Malta) and the Court of Magistrates (Gozo). The latter court has a superior and an inferior jurisdiction.

In Malta the courts are housed in the court building situated in Republic Street, Valletta. In Gozo the Court of Magistrates (Gozo) is housed in the court building within the Citadel of Victoria. The building was previously the Governor’s Palace and was built by Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt in the 17th century. The Court of Appeal (Inferior Jurisdiction) and the Court of Criminal Appeal (Inferior Jurisdiction) also hold their sittings within the Citadel of Victoria when hearing some appeals from the Court of Magistrates (Gozo).

The court building in Valletta (shown here on the right) stands on the site of what was previously the Knights’ Auberge d’Auvergne. On the 8 June 1570, the Langue of Auvergne was authorized by the Grand Council of the Order of St John to finance the erection of its own Auberge in the new city of Valletta. The building was erected to the design of Girolamo Cassar. In 1825 it became the seat of the Tribunale di Pirateria and of the Corte di Fallimento. In 1840, during the governorship of General Sir Henry Bouverie, the Civil Courts moved into the building.

During World War II the entire complex was destroyed by a German parachute mine, and was rebuilt in the late sixties to the classical design we see today. During the period until the new building was completed, the Superior Courts and the Court of Magistrates (Malta) were housed in two different buildings, both in Valletta, although there were periods when the courts were also situated in different towns.

The present building comprises seven floors, three of which are below the level of Republic Street. These three levels house the Civil Courts Registry, the Court Archives, the police lock-up and a car park. Up till a few years ago, the Valletta Police Station was also housed in one of these three under-street-level floors.

The building was inaugurated on the 9 January 1971 by the then Prime Minister Dr George Borg Olivier, in the presence of the Governor Sir Maurice Dorman, the Archbishop Sir Michael Gonzi, Judges and Magistrates, ministers and other distinguished guests. The first case to be heard in the new building was scheduled for Monday 11 January 1971 and was an appeal lodged by two Sicilians against the order for their extradition.

The Constitutional Court

Although the Constitutional Court is popularly regarded as the “highest court of the land”, in reality it has a jurisdiction far more limited than that of the Court of Appeal. On the other hand it may be argued that it since matters touching upon the interpretation of the Constitution itself and upon the validity of laws ultimately fall to be decided by this court, its pre-eminence is determined by the subject matter of the cases that can come before it.

The Constitutional Court came into being as a Superior Court with the 1964 Independence Constitution. Originally it was composed of five Judges, including the Chief Justice as President and a Vice-President. In 1974 it was reduced to three Judges, and the post of Vice-President was abolished. It is today composed of the Chief Justice as President and two other Judges.

The Constitutional Court has both an original and an appellate jurisdiction. As an appellate court it hears appeals from decisions of other courts on questions relating to the interpretation of the Constitution and on the validity of laws, as well as appeals from decisions on alleged breaches of fundamental human rights. As a court of original jurisdiction, the Constitutional Court decides questions concerning the validity of the election of members of the House of Representatives, the requirement in certain cases for a member to vacate his seat in the said House, and the validity of the election of the Speaker from among persons who are not members of the House. As a court of original jurisdiction the Constitutional Court also decides questions concerning the validity of general elections, including allegations of illegal or corrupt practices or foreign interference in such elections. No appeal lies from a decision of the Constitutional Court given in its original jurisdiction.

By far the most common cases which to-day come up before the Constitutional Court are cases concerning alleged violations of fundamental human rights, whether in terms of the provisions of the Constitution or in terms of the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights. In 2005 the Constitutional Court delivered 33 judgments concerning alleged violations of fundamental human rights, in 2006 it delivered 37, 24 were delivered in 2007, with another 24 in 2008.

A provision in the Constitution guarantees that this court is constituted at all times, and this provision can only be amended by a two-thirds majority vote of all members of the House of Representatives.

The Constitutional Court holds its sittings in Hall 20 (which is also used by the Court of Appeal and the Court of Criminal Appeal when these courts are composed of three judges).

The Judges ordinarily sitting in the Constitutional Court with the Chief Justice are the Hon. Mr Justice Joseph Filletti and the Hon. Mr Justice Geoffrey Valenzia

The Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal is the final appellate court in Malta in civil matters. Unlike in some other jurisdictions, which have a two-tier appeal system (with the second appellate court usually called Court of Cassation or Supreme Court), Malta (like Cyprus) has only a one tier system of appeal.

This Court can be composed of either three Judges – the Chief Justice and two other Judges – or of one Judge sitting alone. When composed of three Judges it hears appeals from decisions of the First Hall of the Civil Court, of the Family Section of the Civil Court, of the Court of Magistrates (Gozo) in its Superior Jurisdiction, and of the Family Section of the Court of Magistrates (Gozo) in its Superior Jurisdiction. When composed of three Judges it is generally referred to as the Court of Appeal (Superior Jurisdiction). This court also gives the necessary orders so that decisions delivered by the competent Ecclesiastical Tribunals in marriage annulment proceedings are registered so that they can have civil effect. Before giving such an order the Court of Appeal must ensure that certain procedures laid down in the Marriage Act (Cap. 255) have been followed, and in particular that in the proceedings before the Ecclesiastical Tribunal there was assured to the parties the right of action and defence in a manner substantially not dissimilar to the principles of the Constitution of Malta.

When composed of one Judge the Court of Appeal – referred to now as the Court of Appeal (Inferior Jurisdiction) – hears appeals from decisions of the Court of Magistrates (Malta) and the Court of Magistrates (Gozo) in its Inferior Jurisdiction. It also hears appeals from decisions of many tribunals where the law provides that appeals from those decisions lie to the Court of Appeal composed of one Judge.

The Court of Appeal (Superior Jurisdiction) consists of two Chambers: the First Chamber and the Second Chamber. These sections have identical jurisdiction and powers. A Second Chamber was created simply because of the volume of work in this court. Both Chambers are presided by the Chief Justice.

The Court of Appeal (Superior Jurisdiction) sits only in Malta, whereas the Court of Appeal (Inferior Jurisdiction) sits also in Gozo for the hearing and determination of appeals from decisions of the Court of Magistrates (Gozo) in its Inferior Jurisdiction.

For the years 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 the Court of Appeal (Superior Jurisdiction) disposed of 374, 360, 437 and 423 cases respectively. For the same three years the Court of Appeal (Inferior Jurisdiction) disposed of 288, 349, 322 and 268 cases. These figures do not include the hundreds of applications and motions which were dealt with summarily or in chambers.

The Judges at present ordinarily sitting in the Court of Appeal are:

First Chamber: the Chief Justice, with the the Hon. Mr Justice Joseph Filletti and the Hon. Mr Justice Geoffrey Valenzia; Second Chamber: the Chief Justice, with the Hon. Mr Justice Albert Magri and the Hon. Mr Justice Tonio Mallia; Court of Appeal (Inferior Jurisdiction): (separately) the Hon Mr Justice Philip Sciberras and the Hon. Mr Justice Raymond Pace.

The Criminal Court

The Criminal Court is the only court which permits the public to participate directly in the administration of justice through trials by jury.

Technically any person who is charged with an offence carrying a punishment exceeding six months imprisonment can end up before the Criminal Court. In practice, however, the vast majority of persons charged with an offence carrying a punishment exceeding six months but not exceeding ten years imprisonment opt to be tried by the Court of Magistrates. Persons charged with an offence carrying a punishment exceeding ten years imprisonment must be tried by the Criminal Court.

Proceedings before the Criminal Court begin when the Attorney General files the Bill of Indictment. This document is based on the evidence collected by the Court of Magistrates in the course of the compilation of evidence (committal proceedings). A Judge sits alone in the Criminal Court for the determination of preliminary pleas and pleas as to the admissibility of evidence; but for the determination of whether the accused is guilty or otherwise of the charge or charges brought against him by the Attorney General, the Criminal Court is composed of a Judge and a jury of nine persons. In a trial by jury the Judge determines all questions of law, including such matters as the admissibility and the relevance of evidence and of questions, as well as all matters relative to the conduct of the hearing; but the decision as to whether the accused is guilty or not is a matter for the jury. One of the most important functions of the Judge in a trial by jury is the summing-up, when the Judge addresses the jury explaining to them the ingredients of the offence or offences with which the accused is charged, and sums up the evidence in such a way as to enable the jury to determine whether they are satisfied beyond reasonable doubt of the guilt of the accused. Unlike what happens in some continental jurisdictions, when the jurors retire to consider their verdict they do so without the Judge being present. The jury may return either a unanimous verdict or a qualified verdict. A qualified verdict, whether in favour of or against the accused, must have the concurrence of at least six votes – that is to say, the minimum acceptable verdict is a 6-3 verdict. However there are some issues, such as the determination of whether the accused was sane or otherwise at the time of the commission of the offence, where a simple 5-4 majority verdict is acceptable at law.

Jurors do not give reasons for their verdict. If the verdict is one of guilt, the Judge proceeds to sentence the person found guilty in the absence of the jury.

Exceptionally, the accused may opt to be tried by the Judge alone without a jury.

The Criminal Court is also the court where a number of collateral proceedings take place. For these proceedings the court is composed of a Judge sitting alone, that is without a jury. These proceedings include

applications for bail in those cases where the Court of Magistrates is not competent to deal with such applications;
review of decisions of the Court of Magistrates concerning an alleged unlawful detention of a person;
review of decisions of the Court of Magistrates in connection with the granting of bail;
the review of decisions of the Court of Magistrates allowing or dismissing a request for an order against the Commissioner of Police to commence criminal proceedings against a third party;
the review of decisions of the Court of Magistrates (as a Court of Criminal Inquiry) that there are not sufficient grounds for a Bill of Indictment to be filed; and
applications under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (Cap. 373) and related legislation for the issue of investigation and attachment orders.

The Judge ordinarily sitting in the Criminal Court is the Hon. Mr Justice Joseph Galea Debono. However collateral proceedings are generally dealt with by the Chief Justice.


The Court of Criminal Appeal

Just as the Court of Appeal is the final appellate court in Malta in civil matters, the Court of Criminal Appeal is the final court of appeal in criminal matters.

When composed of three Judges (Court of Criminal Appeal – Superior Jurisdiction), this Court hears appeals by the party convicted from decisions (verdict and/or sentence passed) of the Criminal Court. It also hears appeals, entered either by the accused or by the Attorney General, from preliminary decisions given by the Criminal Court on preliminary pleas and pleas on the admissibility of evidence.

When composed of one Judge (Court of Criminal Appeal – Inferior Jurisdiction) it hears appeals from decisions of the Court of Magistrates (Malta) and of the Court of Magistrates (Gozo) in all criminal matters. With the extension in 2003 of the right of appeal of the Attorney General, the work of the Court of Criminal Appeal (Inferior Jurisdiction) has increased considerably. This is shown by the number of cases decided each year from 2002 to 2008: 2003 - 268 cases, 2003 - 316, 2004 - 250, 2005 - 344, 2006 - 379, 2007 - 432 and 2008 - 404.

Whereas the Court of Appeal (Superior Jurisdiction) sits only in Malta, the Court of Appeal (Inferior Jurisdiction) sits also in Gozo when hearing appeals from the Court of Magistrates (Gozo).

The Judges ordinarily sitting in the Court of Criminal Appeal are the Chief Justice together with the Hon. Mr Justice David Scicluna and the Hon. Mr Justice Joseph Zammit McKeon. The Judges ordinarily sitting, separately, in the Court of Criminal Appeal (Inferior Jurisdiction) are the Hon. Mr Justice David Scicluna, the Hon. Mr Justice Joseph Galea Debono, the Hon. Mr Justice Michael Mallia and the Chief Justice.

The Civil Court:

The Civil Court is divided into three sections:

First Hall of the Civil Court:

This court, as the name implies -- General Jurisdiction Section of the Civil Court -- is the superior court which deals with all matters, civil and commercial, which are not by special provision of law assigned to be tried and determined by another court. Its jurisdiction increased dramatically after the suppression of the Commercial Court in 1995. It is also and more commonly known as the First Hall of the Civil Court.

Broadly speaking, all claims where the amount involved exceeds eleven thousand six hundred and forty six euros and eighty seven euro cents (Euro 11,646.87) fall to be tried by the First Hall of the Civil Court. So also are cases where the claim cannot be quantified in terms of value. Unless otherwise provided, an appeal lies from any decision of the First Hall of the Civil Court to the Court of Appeal.

The First Hall of the Civil Court is also the court which handles in first instance all cases dealing with allegations of violations of human rights, whether under the Constitution or under the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights as incorporated into Maltese law by virtue of the European Convention Act (Cap. 319). However in this case the appeal from the decision of the First Hall of the Civil Court is not heard by the Court of Appeal but by the Constitutional Court.

To date the First Hall of the Civil Court is also the court which deals with cases of judicial review of administrative action whereby administrative acts of the government or of any other public authority may be quashed. In practice it is also the court before which most applications for the issue of precautionary or executive warrants are brought, and is also responsible for the majority of judicial sales by auction of property.

One Judge sits in the First Hall of the Civil Court. At present there are eight Judges who are assigned to sit, separately, in this court. Up till recently, cases were assigned or distributed among these judges by the registrar on a roster basis. However, pursuant to powers conferred on the Chief Justice by Article 11 of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure (Cap. 12), cases are beginning to be assigned to judges according to the type of cases. This allows for greater specialisation by the Judge concerned.

In Gozo the Court of Magistrates (Gozo) in its Superior Jurisdiction has the same jurisdiction, powers and functions as are exercised by the First Hall of the Civil Court in Malta, but with some exceptions. Notable among these is that concerning allegations of violations of fundamental human rights: even if such a case emanates from Gozo, it must be brought before the First Hall of the Civil Court in Malta. An appeal lies from any decision of the Court of Magistrates (Gozo) in its Superior Jurisdiction to the Court of Appeal in Malta.

The Judges ordinarily sitting in the First Hall of the Civil Court are: the Hon. Mr Justice Joseph Azzopardi (Section President), the Hon. Mr Justice Giannino Caruana Demajo, the Hon. Mr Justice Gino Camilleri, the Hon. Mr Justice Carmelo Farrugia Sacco, the Hon. Mr Justice Raymond Pace, the Hon. Mr Justice Joseph R. Micallef, the Hon. Madam Justice Abigail Lofaro and the Hon. Mr Justice Joseph Zammit McKeon. The Magistrates ordinarily sitting in the Court of Magistrates (Gozo) in its Superior Jurisdiction are Magistrate Dr Paul Coppini and Magistrate Dr Anthony Ellul.

Family Section:

This court is sometimes referred to as the Family Court. The present structure of the Family Section of the Civil Court came into being in December 2003, when the Civil Court was split up into three sections: the General Jurisdiction Section – also known as the First Hall of the Civil Court – the Family Section and the Voluntary Jurisdiction Section. Prior to this date matters concerning family relationships and duties were heard before the First Hall of the Civil Court, with certain preliminary procedures, however, having to be conducted before the Second Hall of the Civil Court (which is to-day called the Voluntary Jurisdiction Section of the Civil Court). Thus, for instance, if spouses wanted to separate they had first to obtain the consent of the Second Hall of the Civil Court. The Judge sitting in this court would attempt to reconcile the parties, and if reconciliation failed he would authorise them to proceed to the court of contentious jurisdiction, that is to go before the First Hall of the Civil Court, where the plaintiff would commence litigation by writ of summons. In December 2003 the Second Hall (now styled Civil Court, Voluntary Jurisdiction Section) ceased to have anything to do with separation proceedings, and instead compulsory mediation before specially trained mediators was introduced as part of the set up of the Family Section of the Civil Court.

The Family Section of the Civil Court deals with cases of annulment of marriage, personal separation, custody and maintenance of children (whether born in or out of wedlock), paternity and filiation, and matters which are regulated by the Child Abduction and Child Custody Act. Adoption, however, is dealt with by the Voluntary Jurisdiction Section of the Civil Court. The Judge sitting in the Family Section also has to approve deeds of personal separation, that is when the spouses agree to what is called “separation by mutual consent”. Even in this kind of separation, however, the spouses must first go before a mediator of this court.

In matters involving children the Family Section of the Civil Court can appoint an advocate to represent, and promote the best interests of, the children concerned notwithstanding that for the purpose of the litigation in hand they may be represented by one of the parents.

If any question arises whether a particular matter falls to be determined by the Family Section or by some other section of the Civil Court, such a question is referred by the registrar to the Chief Justice. The Chief Justice decides the matter, and no appeal lies from that decision.

In Gozo, matters which would be dealt with in Malta by the Family Section of the Civil Court are dealt with by the Family Section of the Court of Magistrates (Gozo) in its Superior Jurisdiction, with the same structure, including mediators, as in Malta.

Two Judges ordinarily sit, separately, in the Family Section of the Civil Court. At present these are the Hon. Mr Justice Noel Cuschieri (Section President) and the Hon. Madam Justice Anna Felice. In Gozo, the Magistrates currently sitting in the Family Section are Magistrate Dr Paul Coppini and Magistrate Dr Anthony Ellul.

Voluntary Jurisdiction Section:

The Civil Court (Voluntary Jurisdiction Section) was established by the Civil Courts (Establishment of Sections) Order 2003, made by the President of Malta in terms of Article 2 of the Code of Organization and Civil Procedure (Chapter 12 of the Laws of Malta). This court was formerly styled Second Hall of the Civil Court.

One Judge sits in the Voluntary Jurisdiction Section of the Civil Court. In Gozo this section is part of the Court of Magistrates (Gozo) in its Superior Jurisdiction.

This court does not hear and decide cases of a contentious nature. Its main function is to oversee and protect certain rights and interests, which for some reason or other are not exercised or not exercisable by the person to whom the right or interest appertains. It has jurisdiction to deal with applications relating to adoption, matters relating to trusts (under the Trusts and Trustees Act - Chapter 331 of the Laws of Malta), tutorship and curatorship and other administrators (including testamentary executors), interdiction and incapacitation, absentees, the depositing, opening and publication of secret wills, and declarations of the opening of succession. Any person who wants to accept an inheritance with the benefit of inventory or who does not want to accept an inheritance, has to file a note in this court. Requests for the taxation of fees due to notaries, advocates and legal procurators for extra-judicial services are also dealt with by this court. Although no appeal lies from decrees issued by this court, any interested party who feels aggrieved can file an action before the First Hall of the Civil Court requesting that the decree be quashed.

At present three Judges ordinarily sit (separately) in the Voluntary Jurisdiction Section of the Civil Court: the Hon. Mr Justice Gino Camilleri, the Hon Mr Justice Joseph Azzopardi and the Hon. Mr Justice Michael Mallia. In Gozo, the Magistrate ordinarily sitting in the Voluntary Jurisdiction Section of the Court of Magistrates (Gozo) in its Superior Jurisdiction is Magistrate Dr Anthony Ellul.


The Courts of Magistrates

The Court of Magistrates is the work horse of the criminal justice system. It is the court where the greatest number of criminal cases, from the very trivial to the very serious, are decided. A Magistrate sits, alone, in this court, the only exception being when the court sits as a Juvenile Court in which case the Magistrate sits with two lay assistants.

The Court of Magistrates has both a civil and a criminal jurisdiction. It hears civil cases which exceed the competence of the Small Claims Tribunal but which do not fall within the competence of the First Hall of the Civil Court.

In its criminal jurisdiction, this court has a twofold competence. As a court of criminal judicature it deals with all cases where the punishment for the alleged offence does not exceed six months imprisonment. However, with the consent of the Attorney General and of the accused, the Court of Magistrates as a Court of Criminal Judicature may determine cases where the offence carries a punishment not exceeding ten years imprisonment. As a court of criminal inquiry it collects the evidence brought by the police against a person charged with an offence falling within the competence of the Criminal Court. At the end of this inquiry the court – now styled Court of Magistrates as a Court of Criminal Inquiry – has to decide whether or not there is sufficient evidence for a Bill of Indictment to be filed by the Attorney General before the Criminal Court. These proceedings before the Court of Magistrates as a Court of Criminal Inquiry (sometimes called compilation or committal proceedings) must not be confused with the so called magisterial inquiry. A magisterial inquiry (technically called “Inquiry relating to the in genere”) is carried out not by the “court” but by a Magistrate acting in an investigative capacity. In a magisterial inquiry no person will as yet have been charged by the police before the court, although there may be suspects; the main purpose of the magisterial inquiry is to preserve the material traces of an offence or to inquire into a suspicious or violent death or a death the cause whereof is unknown, while at the same time examining what evidence is available to determine whether any person should in fact be charged in connection with any offence.

Recent amendments to the Criminal Code now require the involvement of the Magistrate – again, not of the Court of Magistrates – at various stages of the police investigation into certain offences. Search and arrest warrants are now issued by Magistrates where formerly they were issued by police inspectors. Magistrates have also to authorise, in certain cases, the continued detention of a suspect for purposes of investigation and must also be present for certain procedures, such as identification parades.

The Court of Magistrates sits both in Malta and in Gozo. In Malta it is styled Court of Magistrates (Malta) and in Gozo Court of Magistrates (Gozo). For more information on the Court of Magistrates (Gozo), see under “Gozo Courts”. When the Court of Magistrates (Malta) sits to hear applications for the extradition of persons from Malta to other countries, it is called Court of Committal (in Maltese, Qorti Rimandanti).

The Juvenile Court established under the Juvenile Court Act (Cap. 287) is deemed by law to be a Court of Magistrates. It hears criminal cases brought against persons who are under the age of sixteen years. It also hears appeals against care orders made by the minister responsible for social welfare under the Children and Young Persons (Care Orders) Act (Cap. 285). In the Juvenile Court the Magistrate sits with two lay assistants, one of whom must be a woman. The Juvenile Court holds sittings both in Malta and in Gozo.

The Court of Magistrates also hears appeals from decisions of the Commissioners of Justice.

The Gozo Courts

This court, formerly known as the Court of Magistrates of Judicial Police for the Islands of Gozo and Comino, was established on the 15 October 1814 by a Proclamation issued by Sir Thomas Maitland, the first British Governor of Malta. Originally its competence was limited. Since 1855 it has had a two-fold jurisdiction in civil matters: superior and inferior. Ordinance XV of 1913 gave the court also a commercial jurisdiction. A Magistrate sits in this court and deals with claims against persons residing or having their ordinary abode in the Islands of Gozo or Comino.

In its inferior jurisdiction the court hears and determines all claims for an amount that does not exceed eleven thousand six hundred and forty six euros and eighty seven euro cents (€11,646.87) but which exceed the competence of the Small Claims Tribunal. Appeals are heard in Gozo by the Court of Appeal (composed of a single Judge).

In its superior jurisdiction, the Court of Magistrates (Gozo) deals with cases which in Malta are heard and determined by the Civil Court, with the exception of cases where a person claims that his fundamental rights, as protected by the Constitution or by the European Convention on Human Rights, have been, are being or are likely to be breached. The Court of Magistrates (Gozo) in its superior jurisdiction is divided into three sections: the General Jurisdiction Section, the Voluntary Jurisdiction Section and the Family Section. Appeals from the Court of Magistrates (Gozo) in its superior jurisdiction are heard in Malta before the Court of Appeal (composed of the Chief Justice and two other Judges).

The Court of Magistrates (Gozo) has also a criminal jurisdiction identical to that of the Court of Magistrates (Malta), with the exception that extradition proceedings are always heard before the latter court. Appeals from decisions of the Court of Magistrates (Gozo) as a Court of Criminal Judicature are heard in Gozo by the Court of Criminal Appeal (composed of a single Judge). Below is a picture of the building in The Citadel, Victoria, where the courts sit in Gozo. The Juvenile Court, however, holds its sittings in another building.

Court Structure, Administration and Supplementary Staff

Small Claims Tribunal

The Small Claims Tribunal has been set up recently by an Act of Parliament. The Act provides for the appointment of an adjudicator who decides these cases on principles of equity and the law. Proceedings are summary and there is little formality of proceedings. The intention is to have claims of one hundred or less Maltese Liri decided in one to two sittings. The adjudicator may be a lawyer with at least one year practice or a Legal Procurator with three years practice. Sittings of this Tribunal are held in Malta or Gozo.

Commissioners of Justice

A small number of infringements of the law such as minor traffic offenses (parking in a non-parking area, etc.), illegal disposal of litter, non-compliance with the Education Act etc., have been depenalised and are heard by Commissioners of Justice. The Commissioners are selected from among persons holding a law degree and given a three year appointment. As the offenses have been depenalised the case may be decided even in the absence of the accused.

The Juvenile Court

The Juvenile Court Ordinance (Cap. 71) was repealed by Act XXIV of 1980. The Juvenile Court is now provided for by Act XXIV of 1980 as subsequently amended by Act XI of 1985. It consists of a Magistrate sitting in a place different from that of the ordinary Courts of criminal jurisdiction and hearing charges against, or other proceedings relating to persons under the age of sixteen years. In the proceedings before it, the Court is assisted by two persons, one of whom is a woman, whom the Court may consult in any case for its decision, such consultation to take place in open Court. The Court is not, however, bound to abide by the opinion of the assistants. Sittings are at present being held at the "Centru Hidma Socjali" in Santa Venera.

Independence of the Judiciary

The Judiciary (Judges and Magistrates) and the Attorney General enjoy security of tenure and are independent from the other organs of the State.

The Constitution provides for this independence through its various provisions.


THE JUDICIARY.

The Bench of Judges is made up of:

His Honour The Chief Justice Silvio Camilleri
Chief Justice Emeritus Vincent De Gaetano (Judge in respect of Malta on the European Court of Human Rights)
The Hon. Mr Justice Giannino Caruana Demajo (Senior Administrative Judge and Vice-Chairman, Judicial Studies Committee)
The Hon. Mr Justice Gino Camilleri
The Hon. Mr Justice Carmelo Farrugia Sacco - [impeachment motion before Parliament]
The Hon. Mr Justice David Scicluna
The Hon. Mr Justice Joseph R. Micallef
The Hon. Mr Justice Tonio Mallia
The Hon. Mr Justice Noel Cuschieri (President of the Family Section of the Civil Court)
The Hon. Mr Justice Joseph Azzopardi (President of the General Jurisdiction Section of the Civil Court)
The Hon. Madam Justice Abigail Lofaro
The Hon. Madam Justice Anna Felice
The Hon. Mr Justice Joseph Zammit McKeon
The Hon. Mr Justice Michael Mallia
The Hon. Mr Justice Lawrence Quintano
The Hon. Mr Justice Mark Chetcuti
The Hon. Mr Justice Silvio Meli
The Hon. Mr Justice Anthony Ellul
The Hon. Madam Justice Jacqueline Padovani Grima
The Hon. Mr Justice Robert Mangion
The Hon. Madam Justice Lorraine Schembri Orland

The Magistrature is made up of:

Magistrate Dr Antonio Mizzi (Senior Magistrate)
Magistrate Dr Joseph Apap Bologna
Magistrate Dr Carol Peralta
Magistrate Dr Paul Coppini
Magistrate Dr Saviour Demicoli
Magistrate Dr Tonio Micallef Trigona
Magistrate Dr Giovanni Grixti
Magistrate Dr Consuelo Scerri Herrera
Magistrate Dr Miriam Hayman
Magistrate Dr Anthony J. Vella
Magistrate Dr Audrey Demicoli
Magistrate Dr Edwina Grima
Magistrate Dr Doreen Clarke
Magistrate Dr Gabriella Vella
Magistrate Dr Claire Stafrace Zammit
Magistrate Dr Marse-Ann Farrugia
Magistrate Dr Francesco Depasquale
Magistrate Dr Josette Demicoli
Magistrate Dr Neville Camilleri
Magistrate Dr Ian Farrugia
Magistrate Dr Natasha Galea Sciberras


Retired Judges and Magistrates (in alphabetical order)

Judge Carmel A. Agius

Magistrate Dr Gawdenz Borg

Judge Frank G. Camilleri

Judge Joseph D. Camilleri (Chairman, Judicial Studies Committee)

Judge Victor Caruana Colombo

Judge Maurice Caruana Curran (click here for photograph)

Chief Justice Emeritus Prof. John J. Cremona

Magistrate Dr Joseph Cassar

Judge Anton Depasquale

Judge Franco Depasquale

Judge Joseph A. Filletti

Judge Joseph Galea Debono

Judge Oliver Gulia

Chief Justice Emeritus Prof. Hugh Harding (click here for photograph)

Judge Albert J. Magri

Judge Albert Manche`

Chief Justice Emeritus Prof. Giuseppe Mifsud Bonnici

Magistrate Dr Dennis Montebello

Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino

Judge Philip Sciberras

Judge Geoffrey Valenzia

Disgraced Judges:

Chief Justice Dr. Noel Arrigo

Judge Patrick Vella

Judge Joseph Raymond Pace



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last modified: January 2013