When two parties disagree on an issue (Civil Law), or a person is charged for an offence (Criminal Law), and a lawsuit is instituted, it results in a judgement. The judgement is the final pronouncement of the judge or magistrate hearing the case, which binds the parties (Civil Law) and acquits or convicts a person charged (Criminal Law). Judgements can be those of first instance, or of second instance (on appeal). Anyone can view judgements and are particularly useful to law students. Judgements are considered a source of law and are as important as the laws themselves. Several judgements interpret legal provisions, therefore they are to be read always in conjunction with the laws. Not only does referring to them enrich your essays and assignments, but they will help you understand vague laws and legal principles. It is inadvisable to ignore court judgements and only focus on notes and legislation. It is important that you train yourself to read court judgements and make it a habit to refer to them.
II. Finding Court Judgements
Maltese Court judgements (post-2001) are available from the Ministry for Justice, Culture and Local Government website at http://www.justiceservices.gov.mt To find court judgements, click on Court Services on the left side bar. A few options will appear on the new page. Click on Judgements Online and a new page will open. On your left, you can see 5 sections: Selected Judgements, Judgements Archive 2001 Onwards, Judgements Last 12 Months, Judgements Last 15 Days and Search By Keywords
1. Selected Judgements: Here you can find ‘selected’ judgements pre- and post-2001. It’s always better if you know the date of the judgements, and type that in the relevant box.
2. Archive 2001 onwards: Here you can find every judgement entered into from 1st
3. January 2001: It is advisable to search by date of the judgement, as searching by names of parties or keywords sometimes yields no results.
4. Last 12 months: Last 15 days: Here you can find judgements from the last 12 months, and last 15 days respectively.
5. Search by keywords: Here you can look for court judgements by ‘keyword’.
N.B. Judgements pre-2001 may sometimes not be found online, and thus, it would be necessary to look for them at the University Library (Ground Floor – Reference Section).
An easy way to search for judgements is by clicking on Search all Judgements under the Judgements Online left side bar. Through the Search All Judgments facility one can search for all the judgements within the Judgements database.
Judgements usually follow a simple structure. When reading a judgement, it is important to understand the several sub-headings:
1. Court and Deciding Judge/Magistrate: At the very top of a judgement, you’ll find the court which is deciding together with the name of the Magistrate/Judge. It is important to know if the case is one of first instance or not.
2. Date and Number: Immediately below, you can find the date of the judgement, and the official registration number of that case.
3. Caption (Okkju): This is the name of the case. In Civil cases, the first name is the person who brought the case to court (plaintiff – attur), and the second name is the person who is defending the case (defendant – konvenut). In Criminal cases, the first name is the prosecuting authority, usually ‘Pulizija’ (name of Inspector prosecuting), or ‘Repubblika ta’ Malta’. The second name is the person charged (imputat, akkużat).
4. Facts of the Case: Next, you will find the facts of the case. In Civil proceedings, this shows the background of the claim. In criminal proceedings, it shows the facts that led up to the criminal charge. In civil proceedings, the facts of the case are followed by the claims prayed by the plaintiff (talbiet), usually numbered.
5. Legal Principles and analysis of the facts: This usually starts with the word ikkunsidrat. This is an analysis of the corresponding legal principles, law, previous court judgements and, occasionally, jurists. This is done in conjunction with an analysis of the facts of the case as applicable to the legal principles. For law students, this sub-heading is the most important part of the judgement, as there is the legal analysis, which may be quoted in order to strengthen an argument or studied to further understand the topic in question. Sometimes, this sub-heading is dispensed with.
6. Decision (Deċide): This is the final pronouncement of the case. Generally, in civil proceedings, this is the decision on whether the claims (talbiet) have been accepted by the court together with a pronouncement of who will pay the judicial costs. In criminal proceedings, the final pronouncement is the acquittal or conviction of the person charged.
N.B. The structure may vary in some cases (e.g. Appeals), but generally, it follows the above structure.
Direct Link: http://www.justiceservices.gov.mt/courtservices/