The Times of Malta reported what happened yesterday in court in front of Magistrate Rachel Montebello. Yorgen Fenech’s lawyers brought to the attention of the court the declarations that Beppe Fenech Adami made during the Public Accounts Committee hearing regarding Paul Apap Bologna and the contract of Electrogas Malta Ltd.
When similar statements were made public in the past, the aggrieved party sought redress from the Constitutional Court. This is what happened in the case of Tancred Tabone, when he felt injured by the direct questions that were asked by Owen Bonnici regarding the famous oil issue. In the meantime, the law was changed, and any aggrieved party has now first to seek redress in the Lower Courts, before the magistrate that would be hearing the case in question. As the comments were made against Yorgen Fenech, wherein, Beppe Fenech Adami affirmed that Yorgen Fenech killed Daphne Caruana Galizia because of Electrogas, Yorgen Fenech’s lawyers had to present their petition to Magistrate Montebello as she is the magistrate responsible for the gathering of evidence to establish whether he is to be indicted or not.
This is what happened today. As Yorgen Fenech felt injured by the type of out-of-order statements made by Beppe Fenech Adami, his lawyers filed a plea with Magistrate Montebello asking for redress.
I will not delve into this issue, even if I believe that the Public Accounts Committee acted as a Kangaroo court in this case. But I wish to remark on the fact that Beppe Fenech Adami had his own legal representatives in court this morning when such a plea was filed by Yorgen Fenech’s lawyers. Beppe Fenech Adami was represented in court by Karol Aquilina.
I know that the situation I shall be referring to is somewhat different but finally we are taking on the same principle. When lawyers submit petitions for contempt of court, those mentioned in these pleas are not represented in court by a lawyer when the magistrate hears such requests. The magistrate then decides, without hearing what the other side, who is being accused of contempt. has to say. Then, the magistrate arbitrarily decides whether there is a prima facie – that is a valid reason – to uphold the petition or not. In case, the magistrate upholds the request, those indicted will then have to fight their case in lower courts as the case will have to be decided by an independent magistrate. Thus, those accused with contempt of court can only start to defend themselves after the magistrate has given her sentence.
The law should be equal for everybody. But this case clearly highlights that this is not so. The law as it stands is not equal for everybody as it gives the chance for MPs of the PAC to be represented in court by a lawyer when pleas are made against them. However, when similar petitions or pleas are made in court against the man in the street, in the form of contempt of law, the same law does not apply. This case goes to show that our MPs are not only privileged in Parliament but also before of our courts.