A better justice system – the malta independent database key types

The various criminal courts have also seen a decrease in its pending caseload. In fact, statistics for 2017 show that the number of pending cases has gone down to 13,185 – 13% less than what the number was 5 years ago. In particular criminal courts, the rate of concluded court decisions was up to 112%, meaning more court decisions were being given compared to the influx of new ones. This is the highest efficiency rate in the past couple of years.

This being said, there are other particular Courts which need attention and we will do all that is necessary and within the limits of rule of law to improve their efficiency. I am confident that the main stakeholders share my view and determination drive further change and improvements. I am confident that in a year’s time, we will see across the board improvements which will result in a better administration of Justice.

Let me mention some changes we undertook with no particular order. Sometimes changes to infrastructure can lead to very positive results almost instantaneously. For instance, the new larger Family Court registry improved greatly the quality of service in this crucial Court as this registry caters better for today’s needs. The public has shown that this change was much needed and we believe that it contributed directly to a better service.

This year an investment of €200,000 has led to the completion of two court halls. Back in March 2017 another new court room was completed, thus resulting in three new court rooms in less than a year. This improvement is allowing for more hearings to be held and more judgements to be passed, resulting in a smaller backlog of proceedings.

Space is an issue in main Court building and the creation of 3 new court halls was the result of planning and attention to detail. In effect those three halls occupy the space which was previously held up by the Chief Justice’s office, the library and training centre. The former was immediately converted to a courtroom once it was transferred to St Thomas More Building. An investment of €140,000 has brought the relocation of the court library and training centre. This relocation was essential for the work on the two courtrooms to commence and have now found their place instead of part of the Court Archives.

Another important milestone in court was the introduction of a new Commercial section of the Civil Court, which has entered into force on the 9th of April. Undeniably, the setting up of a section tasked with Company Law matter clearly crystallises the said commitment in that it provides a more specialised and accessible judicial service to citizens running a business as well as companies in commercial disputes. This augurs extremely well with the various judicial reforms, which this Government is principally implementing to revitalise the justice sector, with the purpose of ensuring that our country’s citizens benefit from a stronger judiciary.

Notwithstanding that, domestically, the Commercial Court – albeit with a different jurisdiction – had previously existed, its absence in recent years raised concerns amongst several bodies and international credit agencies, since in contemporary times having a Commercial Court is the norm and not the exception.

It is precisely this sentiment that spurred Government to act and establish a new Commercial division, a court which will now be competent to hear and adjudicate cases relating to matters governed by the Companies Act, such as bankruptcy, insolvency proceedings, and winding-up proceedings.

The need for this Court was already being felt from within the Courts’ structures, as in practice there were already informal arrangements for the formation of the Commercial Court. The establishment of this Court is aimed at addressing better the various issues which citizens involved in business structures encounter on a commercial level.

Incidentally, I feel that sometimes we do not appreciate enough the huge effort that the Judiciary undertakes to deliver justice in the shortest time possible. While of course there is a minority of members of the Judiciary who need to improve their efficiency, the vast majority is giving its full 100%. And I am proud of each and every one of them.

Let me use the recent Stitching case as an example. A lot was said and written about the actual decision – I too have contributed towards the debate – but not much about the actual length of time it took the European Court for Human Rights to deliver the judgment compared to how long it took our Courts to decide the matter.

Back to the work which we are undertaking to improve the justice sector. Technology is of course a crucial component and we are also witnessing an increase in the use of technology. We are committed in strengthening the Government’s online service for citizens. A number of services are offered by courts’ website, eCourts.gov.mt. Professionals can register for these services by obtaining an eID and register on the website and have access to the court database. In addition, one may submit official letters online, applications to the Court of Magistrates, the Small Claims Tribunal, and the Administrative Review Tribunal. There are many more services that are all intended to help practitioners provide better service to their customers.

Through the Get Mobile Notifications, one can register for this service and receive an SMS whenever there is a sitting related to a civil case. This builds on the service already offered for a deferral of a sitting in which case an SMS is sent to avoid any inconvenience for both involved parties. Through the MyCases online service, one can view all details of a case after registering as one of the parties involved in the case. Also the Register of interdicted and barred persons is now available online – this online registry is accessible to lawyers, notaries and attorneys and therefore now notaries don’t need to be notified in the usual manner previously used as this is now accessible online.

Through the past five years, efforts have been made and initiatives have been implemented to improve the efficiency, quality, independence and impartiality of the Maltese Courts. Results show that the reforms carried out by this Government are having a positive effect. This is not enough. We need to do more and are determined to do more. We will keep pushing for change to keep improving and strengthening our justice system.