Minister Owen Bonnici’s speech at the ‘Supporting the efficiency of Justice in Malta’ – SRSS Conference Technical Support Project between the Ministry for Justice, Culture and Local Government of Malta, the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ), and the Division for Legal Cooperation within the Council of Europe
Esteemed ladies and gentlemen,
It is indeed a pleasure to welcome you to this beautiful venue for a conference during which we shall discuss the expert recommendations on how to improve the quality and efficiency of three targeted areas within our national justice system.
Malta is not new to carrying out reforms in the justice system.
Since 2013, the Ministry has launched an ambitious programme of reforms spearheaded by the report drawn by the Commission for the Holistic Reform, also known as the ‘Bonello Report’.
Since then, we have addressed reform in areas spanning from the rights of the accused during interrogation, to the establishment of a new Commercial Section in our First Hall.
We have heard the pleas of victims of drug use, and adjusted our system in order to help them rather than punish them for their problems, and we have introduced a plethora of ICT enhancements in our justice system so that we enhance the efficiency of the system and the accessibility of justice to the people.
Over these past six years, we repealed laws and enacted new ones, we set up the Department of Justice and we amended the Constitution in order to improve our inherited system of judicial appointments.
We have been indeed hard at work at carrying out reform, not just for the sake of reform itself, but because we are driven by the ambition to deliver a justice system that truly caters for the needs of its users, whilst at the same time, keeps the pace with developments in the sector.
We are not interested in a justice system that is enclosed between the confines of the courthouse.
We want justice to be relevant to the people of our country, to reach out to the corners of our society and draw in those who for some time have felt alienated by the system. We want to be relevant, and in order to do that, we have first to set the record straight in areas in which we need to improve.
This brings us to the reason behind this project.
Funded by the SRSP and guided by the expertise provided by the Council of Europe, this project fits perfectly within our strategy to make justice relevant for all users. Through this project, we are addressing two specific areas of justice which we know can be developed in order to make the system more efficient and offer a service of quality to our users.
We also know that we have a justice system based upon the human element. If we invest in the people that run our justice system, if we manage to foster a culture of excellence and continuous self-improvement within our justice workforce, then we would be paving the way towards providing the quality service that Malta deserves.
This is more than just mere talk. We have already set in motion the processes that will churn the change we are talking about. Throughout the life of this project, the Department of Court Services became an independent agency, giving it a new identity and enabling it to grow more flexible and adaptable to the needs of a modern-day justice system. This shift will enable the setting-up of a whole new human resource structure in order to spearhead the entity to meet the needs that are being placed on it, including more focus on the Agency’s primary resource, its people … the staff … managed by a dedicated Head People Management .
We are also working tirelessly in order to pave the way for the implementation of the recommendations vis-à-vis the committal procedures.
We have up till now legislatively separated the role of the Attorney General (AG) from that of State Advocate, and we are seeking to increase the workforce of professional lawyers within the Office of the AG in order to make it better posed to handle all prosecution.
We have in fact just approved the request to add another 20 lawyers to the Office of the AG, in line with the recommendations within the report that the AG takes over most prosecution.
Furthermore, we are currently preparing to embark on the SRSP3 project, again with the expert assistance of CEPEJ, to draft the first national digital justice strategy.
We are looking at a more integrated approach when it comes to our ICT deliverables across justice, and in line with national policy, we would like to explore the possibilities that AI presents within this dedicated field.
Indeed, the shift towards a fully electronic case management system or the use of technology in the field of human resource management, echoes the recommendations made in all of the Components of the project we shall be discussing today.
We are taking this report seriously, and we intend to follow up on most of the recommendations proffered in order to ensure that we deliver on our pledge to ensure an efficient justice system that provides quality service to all of its users.
Before I conclude my address, I cannot but applaud the work that the experts have carried out in preparing the final documents with recommendations.
I have read these documents with interest and I can appreciate the depth of understanding that the experts have shown of our system.
I would also like to thank the members of the working group, that have dedicated their time and knowledge in order to make this project as relevant as it is.