Justice System Reforms: Office of State Advocate to be established as AG’s powers are split

11th September 2019 

In a series of articles, maltachamber.org.mt takes a look at 18 priority areas the Government has laid out in its pre-budget 2020 document.

The year 2020 “should see” the implementation of separating the functions of the Office of the Attorney General through the establishment of the Office of State Advocate, according to a pre-budget document detailing various priority areas for the upcoming national budget.

After Parliament approved the law allowing for the separation of powers, before the summer 2019 recess, Government has outlined the steps which should be taken next year in order to fully implement the change. The Attorney General’s dual role of public prosecutor as well as the Government’s legal counsel has been split in accordance with recommendations handed down by a group of experts from the Council of Europe (CoE).

Criminal charges will no longer be issued by the police but by the Attorney General. The State Advocate would take over the AG’s existing role of government’s legal counsel.

The CoE’s Venice Commission had compiled a report on the rule of law in Malta and presented it to the government last December.

In the Government’s pre-budget document, it was stated that:

“The development will also involve additional prosecutorial functions being assumed gradually by the Office of the Attorney General in coordination with the police both for separating the investigative and the prosecution functions and for giving an additional role to the Office of the Attorney General in charging decisions and in the prosecution of cases before the Court of Magistrates.”

Government added that “efficiency in the judicial procedure will remain a priority,” elaborating that a newly set-up Court Services Agency is another milestone in the Justice Reform which should serve to ensure “more autonomy to the court”.

Turning to the issue of asset recovery practices, both locally and in terms of cross-border cooperation, the Government stated that the Asset Recovery Bureau will be working on legislation aimed at having an effective “identification, freezing, confiscation and disposal of criminal assets”.

Complimenting this effort, the Government stated that “there shall be the construction of a secure and specialised premises, equipped with the latest technology to host asset tracing laboratory and adequate space for the preservation of seized assets”.