Brothers George and Alfred Degiorgio have failed to overturn President George Vella’s decision to deny them a presidential pardon, with the court saying such a decision is not subject to judicial review.
This is the result of a judgment in civil proceedings brought by the brothers, who are currently awaiting trial for their alleged involvement in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. The two men asked for a presidential pardon in exchange for direct information they claimed to have about the alleged involvement of two former government ministers in “very serious crimes”.
But their requests were denied by President George Vella who acted on a recommendation from Cabinet who, in turn, acted on advice received from the Attorney General and the Commissioner of Police.
The Degiorgio brothers claimed that this decision had been taken without anyone ever hearing what they had to say, and expressed concern that “no one in Malta” would listen to them, despite having openly and consistently maintained that they had evidence “real, reliable, credible and direct evidence.”
They then brought two separate actions. In the first, they claimed that their fundamental right to a fair trial had been violated. The second action was to review the President’s decision as an administrative action taken on advice contrary to the principles of natural justice.
This case was filed against the President of Malta, Prime Minister, Cabinet, Commissioner of Police, Attorney General, State Solicitor and Minister of Justice. In rendering its judgment, the court observed that an “administrative act” within the meaning of article 469A, paragraph 2, of the Code of Organization and Civil Procedure included “the issuance by a public authority of any order, license , permit, mandate, decision or denial for any application by the applicant.”
The advice offered to the Cabinet certainly does not fall within the parameters of this definition, even if it was “extensive” – and “perhaps too extensive”, remarked Judge Grazio Mercieca, president of the first chamber of the civil court. .
A tip was not a decision, and therefore the brothers’ claims against the AG, the state’s attorney, and the police commissioner were without merit.
The Prime Minister, in his personal capacity, had nothing to do with the case and the Cabinet’s recommendation to the President was not an administrative act within the meaning of the law, the court heard. Although the President acted on this recommendation, the final decision was “officially” his, not that of the Cabinet.
However, the law itself grants immunity to the President when acting in the exercise of his functions and, therefore, the decision denying the pardon is not subject to judicial review. The legislator even went further. The Constitution provided that whenever the president was required to act “in accordance with the advice of any person or authority”, that advice “shall not be considered by any court”.
The court concluded that the Degiorgios’ claims could not be sustained since neither the president’s decision nor the corresponding opinion could be subject to judicial review. Lawyers Stefano Filletti and Maurice Meli represented the president.