By means of Act XXIV of 2014, the Government has undertaken the task set out for it by the Commission for the Holistic Report of the Justice System, and started implementing the necessary changes to improve the administration of justice in the Maltese Courts.
Amongst the various amendments implemented in such Act there was the introduction of the possibility of a Court to deliver a judgment in absentia, provided that all the requirements set by law are respected, which system, nevertheless, allows the judged person to appeal from this decision when he is eventually notified by it unless it is proven that he was correctly notified or had sent over a legal counsel to defend him in his absence. This new development is a major development in our judicial system and departs from the system which has been existing for well over a century where the accused has to be present for a decision to be given.
Another important development intended to reduce the workload of courts was the introduction of legislation allowing the possibility for an accused to admit to the offences charged when these are liable to imprisonment exceeding ten years. Prior to this amendment, the accused had to go through the whole process of the Criminal Inquiry, which could take years, prior to having his case heard by the Criminal Court.
One other small yet significant development provided by this Legislation was the introduction of a system whereby, once an accused is notified with the date of first hearing of his case, there was no need to issue any further notifications for future hearings should they be put off to another date.
Another reform being embarked upon by the Government is computerising the whole criminal judicial system, where summary offences are concerned, ensuring that cases will be heard at specific times rather than, as at present, all being called up at 9am, and providing with the accused a copy of the full judgment with the motivations as soon as these are issued. Another part of this reform relates to the notification process of such cases, which notification process is now being dealt with by a private entity rather than the Police force, as has been done till now.
Finally, the Government is embarking in a thorough re-evaluation of the current structure relating to drug cases and is in the process of introducing a Drugs Court presided by a Commissioner for Justice which will hear the minor drug cases, thus alleviating the Courts from the bulk of cases relating to drugs.