In last three years, 22 people have asked for their Court sentence to be removed from Internet
In a digital world where pressing a few buttons on a computer can bring you a mine of information from the Internet, the protection of personal data is becoming more of a delicate issue as time goes by. Among other things, this also applies to names of individuals appearing in Court sentences which can be found online. Except for cases decided by the family court, online sentences in Malta identify the individual by their name and surname which remain in the public domain for the rest of their lives. The Commissioner for Data Protection, Saviour Cachia told TVM, that despite this, there is a procedure for individuals to ask for a sentence to be removed if this is causing them harm.
The Maltese Courts to date do not have an established procedure on how to hide the identity of individuals who have been sentenced for a crime. In Europe there are different systems in use: in Spain and Germany, for example, the names are not mentioned, as happens in Malta in the family Court. In other countries, including at the European Court of Justice, the sentences are published online with the full names.
Mr Cachia told TVM that there might be circumstances and valid reasons for a person to ask for a sentence to be deleted from online records. “When someone feels that something about him should be deleted, he can apply in the search engine where it is appears for it to be removed from the index which is referring to him, and he can also apply to the Court’s Director General when it comes to the sentence appearing online. The person has to file an application, but the sentence will not necessarily be deleted, and it will not be removed from the Court’s official records, however the Director General, after examining the case, will decide whether reference to the person should be removed from the online portal or not.”
Mr Cauchia, said that his office also makes a number of such requests, even by witnesses, to remove the online sentences where their names appear. He said that these cases are decided by the Court’s General Director and his office only investigates when these requests are turned down. He said that in many of these cases, the complainants appeared satisfied by the Director’s decision because they did not continue to pursue the case.
Statistics obtained by TVM from Court show that from 2015 to date, there were 22 requests to remove online sentences, which all go back more than five years. The requests were all upheld except for one, as the case was dropped by the person making the request. The Commissioner for Data Protection explained that these decisions were taken in the context of the European Directive by means of which a person has the right for their sentence not to be in the public domain on the Internet.