Chris Pandolfino and Ivor Maciejowski could still be alive today if Malta’s Attorney General issued formal charges against Daniel Muka, the suspected killer who was out on bail for a 2017 jewellery heist and attempted murder.
If the state prosecutor had issued formal charges, known as a bill of indictment, Muka would have had no legal right to bail, as was seen in the case involving the three men connected to the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
The law makes it clear that suspects in major crimes can only be held without formal charges for a maximum of 20 months.
However, the AG was not in a position to do so because of the on-going compilation of evidence, which is dragging on almost three years after the 2017 heist.
Despite being charged with stealing almost €300,000 worth of jewellery from Diamonds International and trying to murder three police officers, Muka was walking free (subject to some conditions).
It’s had devastating results, with Muka now suspected of murdering Pandolfino and Maciejowski in their Sliema home.
Speaking to Lovin Malta, the Attorney General’s office revealed that the last sitting related to the case was on 3rd March 2020.
In the hearing, the court appointed a ballistics expert and scheduled a number of other sittings. However, it seems that COVID-19 derailed any progress.
Delays in Malta’s courts is a major issue plaguing the country. While figures for the length of criminal cases is not immediately available, a 2020 EU study of Malta’s courts found that its delays are some of the longest in Europe.
It takes an average of 2,250 days to resolve a money laundering case, 1,100 days to resolve a civil suit if it goes to appeal, and 1,000 days for administrative matters. In each instance, Malta tops the list by some margin.
The AG’s office is aware of the issue and hopes to reform the current system.
Some compilations of evidence in criminal cases take decades, with Lovin Malta recently shedding light on the case of Mason Nehls, the youth who has been waiting 11 years for his case to be heard in court.
“It is well known that the current system of full committal proceedings (‘compilation of evidence’) can and often gives rise to the prolongation of criminal proceedings for a number of reasons.”
“Over the past months the Government, the judiciary, the Court administration and the Attorney General’s Office have been involved in a project carried out in conjunction with the Council of Europe and with the benefit of EU (SRSS) funds to reform this system to make it more time-efficient.”
“That project, which necessarily entails a radical change in criminal procedure is ongoing,” the AG’s office said.
A compilation of evidence must be concluded within one month, according to Maltese law, but the rule is seldom followed. Extensions are regular and Malta’s courts are obliged to release a person on bail if a bill of indictment is not issued, with the presumption of innocence reigning supreme.
Indeed, suspects can only be kept in prison for a maximum of 20 months before their trial begins if they are charged with an offence that carries a maximum prison sentence of nine years or more. The maximum time limit is reduced to 16 months if their alleged crime carries a maximum sentence of between four to nine years and to 12 months if it carries a sentence of fewer than four years.
Photo source: Danny Doneo
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