The recent rule of law report issued by the European Commissioner has once again highlighted the “serious challenges remain as regards the efficiency of the justice system, in particular the length of court proceedings”.  Despite the numerous reforms, and political commitments to take the bull by the horns the issue persisted and has become endemic.

Once again Brussels has warned that the current situation is of “serious concern” as confirmed by the average duration of proceedings in the various courts. The duration of litigious civil and commercial cases at first instance, in 2019, remained very long (465 days), showing an increasing trend since 2017. The duration of these proceedings in appeal was also very long (875 days) in 2019. The cherry on the cake was the average length of money laundering cases remained which was in excess of 1350 days, even if with a decreasing trend. While the time needed to resolve administrative cases at first instance remained lengthy, it has shown a decreasing trend since 2017. The clearance rate for civil, commercial, administrative and other cases in 2019 was below 100% and continued to decrease.

These damning statistics were published days after the blistering rebuke delivered by Chief Justice Mark Chetcuti to the Attorney General over the delays in the oil procurement scandal. Exposed by Malta Today in 2013, the case has been dragging on for eight years with very little inroads. Similarly, proceedings in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder as taking their time. So far, the case is still at compilation evidence. Meanwhile, in the US the murder of George Floyd which happened little more than a year ago, has already been consigned to the history books. In just 12 months, the culprit was brought to justice and slapped with a 22-year imprisonment sentence. All this was done in complete respect to the right for a fear hearing.

Compare that to the situation in Malta! A quick search in the court’s website reveals that some of the pending cases go back decades. In one instance a civil case instituted at the Gozo Court in 1973 is still pending.

The current state of play in the Maltese justice system is only serving to reinforce the popular belief among the Maltese – You only go to court if you are at fault. If you are on the right side you only stand to lose. Ignore this advice at your own peril.