Justice Minister Owen Bonnici said that the Government is expected to consult with the Opposition on the appointment of a new Chief Justice after the current one retires in a few months’ time.
Agreement in Parliament that Chief Justice should be appointed by Government
When replying to a supplementary question by the MP Jason Azzopardi in Parliament, Minister Bonnici said there was Parliamentary agreement that the Chief Justice should be chosen by the Government of the day without the nomination going before the Commission for the appointment of the judiciary.
He said that the current Chief Justice, Silvio Camilleri, will be retiring in April of next year and that the Government would consult with the Opposition to try and obtain full consensus. He said that there are valid people serving in and outside of the Courts who are suitable for this post. He added that the new Chief Justice needs to be a person with integrity but also one who has the willingness to lead the judicial sector forward.
The Government has legislated for the courts to give the minimum sentence for trafficking
Minister Bonnici commented on the sentence which was handed down for drug trafficking to William Agius who was sent to three years in prison for trafficking 2000 ecstasy pills. Mr Agius had reformed himself during the time the case took to be heard in Court.
Replying to a supplementary question by Labour MP Byron Camilleri, the Minister said that the Government had legislated fro the Court to be given the right to apply the minimum sentence for trafficking. He said that this case carried a maximum sentence of 12 years and it appears that the Court applied the right to apply the minimum sentence, with the Judge handing down the lowest penalty possible for trafficking this amount of pills.
Speaking about the right given by Parliament for someone who is dependent on drugs to be given treatment rather than a prison sentence, Minister Bonnici said that this was applied recently by the Courts and that there were another 20 pending cases which are expected to be sentenced in the same way.
Drug law allowing the use of medical marijuana discussed
Meanwhile the House of Representatives started discussing the second reading on the Bill to amend the Drug law, which will also permit the use of medical marijuana. Deputy PM and Health Minister Chris Fearne said that Caritas had written to the Government that it was in favour of using cannabis for this purpose.
He said that a license is expected to be given under certain conditions so that medical marijuana can be manufactured in Malta and its price on the market can be reduced considerably. Doctors will be able to issue a prescription for this medicine just like they do with medicine which is given for psychiatric use.