Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Justice delayed…Malta still at the bottom of EU scoreboard

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Updated 6pm with Justice Ministry reaction below.

Malta has remained anchored at the bottom of an EU leaderboard showing the average time that a court takes to decide a case instituted against the government.

The report, issued by the European Commission, shows that of the 25 countries surveyed in 2022, the estimated time needed to resolve administrative cases at first instance in, Malta was 2.8 years.   

The second slowest country is Portugal. There, administrative cases take 1.7 years.

The quickest courts to produce a first judgement in such instances are in Lithuania. There an administrative case takes just over six months on average.

Administrative law refers to instances when people and businesses take the government to court. Tax assessments, land concessions, and tables and chair concessions are some examples of administrative law.  

It has not been all bad news for Malta. In 2021, the average time before a judgment was 3.7 years.  

The average time for a court judgement in civil cases in Malta is the third longest in Europe- 1.4 years.  

A low number of judges may have something to do with this.  

Malta has nine judges for every 100,000 Maltese residents – the third lowest rate in Europe. Croatia has the highest rate, with 42 per 100,000. 

However, Malta has a relatively high number of lawyers- around 275 for every 100,000 people.

Image: European Commission

Newly elected MEP Peter Agius commented sarcastically that Malta is the “best in Europe for justice delayed”. Labour had, in 2013, promised to make Malta ‘the best in Europe’.

The Maltese government should ensure that the courts have the resources to ensure timely justice, Agius said. 

Money laundering cases also take a long time, with the courts taking an average of a year and nine months. That is slightly longer than the 2021 average—a year and a half.  It is the fourth longest in the EU.  

In a reaction, the Justice Ministry said that improving the efficiency of the justice system to provide timely decision of court cases was its top priority.

“The data in the EU JS 24 report is based on 2022 data. It highlights improvements in the court’s performance despite an increase in incoming civil, commercial, and administrative cases. Overall, the time needed to resolve these cases has improved. Administrative cases still take the longest to resolve, but there has been a 20% decrease in the time it takes to process these cases compared to the previous year.”

The ministry said the push to enhance the efficiency of proceedings was also reflected in the improved rate of case resolution. In 2022, the clearance rate of civil and commercial cases increased from 78% to 87%, and the clearance rate of administrative cases improved from 70% to 95% compared to 2021.  

The ministry said financial investment in the law courts per inhabitant had increased, and the investment in the wages of key justice professionals was among the highest across member states.   

    

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