Poor accessibility, health and safety concerns, primitive facilities and the limited space available at the Gozo law courts are driving employees of this institutions to seek job opportunities elsewhere to detriment of the justice system in Gozo.

For years UĦM Voice of the Workers has been insisting for immediate action, but in recent days the issue escalated to the point that proceedings ground to a complete halt after lawyers refused to attend for any sittings as a sign of protest. It was only after Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis promised to take action that this boycott ended.

Sources told Voice of the Workers Weekly that several employees left in recent months while others are considering their future. This is resulting in a backlog of administrative work.

“We have come to a ridiculous situation whereby the poor accessibility of the building means that oaths are being administered outside in the road adjacent to the Citadel car park. Court employees are completely exposed to the elements and have no protection in case of aggressive behaviour by those being summoned to court. The Gozo Court ended up like a drive-through service as at times these services are being rendered while people wait in their cars.” Such remarks were made by  Gozo Court employees who explained they could no longer bear to  work in such conditions. In recent days UĦM issued a directive to its members to stop such practice.

However,  the problems go beyond the building’s accessibility. The Gozo lawcourts  is also beset by  poor internet access, an inadequate IT system, lack of storage space for important documents, and inadequate waiting rooms outs the halls. These shortcomings came to light recently when it transpired no investigation could take place into a fight which erupted within the building at there was no CCTV footage available.  

There are also serious health and safety issues. According to a report which was requested last February and presented recently,  16 issues were flagged meaning that the premises do  not meet the minimum requirements established by law. So far only five have been addressed. This is detrimental to the employees and all those who use this building.

Although the Government is promising to address these problems, such pledge has been met by scepticism as similar commitments have been made since 2013 when government said it would be constructing new premises. For some reason this project has never materialised while the Ministry of Gozo and the Ministry of Justice have been passing the buck to each other for years. Things came to a head recently, as the situation was left to deteriorate. Ironically, the court – an institution whose function is to punish those who disobey or breach the law – is being slapped with fines over health and safety breaches rather than leading by example. Arguably, the fact that the situation was allowed to degenerate to this point is symptomatic of the country’s priorities.