I. Finding the Law
The Laws of Malta are of great importance to your studies. The Ministry for Justice, Culture and Local Government website offers a range of legal service, which will help you in your research and studies.
Visit www.justiceservices.gov.mt. On the left side bar click on Legal Services. A few options will appear on the new page.
The first option on the left side bar is Laws of Malta. Upon selecting it, a new page will open with the Laws of Malta website. On the left side bar, below Laws of Malta, two new links will appear, one with a Search feature and another with a list of all Legislations. Click on Legislation. Here you will find a full list of the Laws of Malta for you to download/view. Go through the pages and find the desired enactment. To download the laws in Maltese, click on Verżjoni bil-Malti at the top right hand side of the screen.
N.B. It is important to note that in case of conflict between the languages of the laws, it is the law in Maltese which applies, thus, it is very important that you always take a look at the laws in Maltese when reading, as conflicts, though rare, are not unheard of.
HINT: A quick and easy way to find the Laws of Malta is directly through Google. Simply type the name of the law, e.g. Constitution of Malta, and the browser will give you a direct link to the law in PDF format.
The second option in the Legal Services menu is Legal Publications. This will also be very useful during your studies. After choosing this option, a number of options will become available on the left side bar, namely:
1. Acts: Here, you can find acts passed by Parliament, sorted by year of publication. This section is important for keeping yourself updated about new laws being enacted or laws being amended (changed).
2. Bills: Here, you can find bills being proposed and discussed by Parliament, sorted by year of publication. This section is important for keeping yourself updated about new laws that are being discussed and which have not yet been enacted (put into force) but are still in the preliminary stages.
3. Legal Notices: Sometimes, when reading a law, you’ll find a reference to bye-laws or legal notices. It’s important to note that such legislation also has the force of law, and should not be ignored – laws should be studied in conjunction with any legal notice or byelaw referred to therewith.
4. Search: Here, you’ll find a search box to look for specific keywords in Legal Publications.
The second option in the Legal Services menu is Treaties. One can search for Treaties to read and download.
N.B. The law changes all the time. It’s important to keep yourself updated with the amendments being carried out to the law. Some laws (e.g. Civil Code, Criminal Code) change frequently, and therefore, when reading a law, make sure it is the very latest version, as changes might have been carried out without your knowledge.
II. Reading the Law
The language of the law is not free-flowing to read and to understand, and it is essential that a high level of scrutiny is applied when reading articles of the law. That being said, it is important to know how laws are structured.
At the top of the first page of every law is the chapter number and the name of that law. Beneath it, you will find the purpose of that law (in italics). TN.B. The Constitution of Malta does not have a chapter number, unlike all the other laws.
Below the purpose of the law, you’ll find a list of all the changes that have been made to the law in question and the specific amendments throughout the years. This serves as a good indication as to the historical development of the law and the last amendment thereof. The laws you will be using most are:
-The Constitution of Malta
-Chapter 9 – Criminal Code;
-Chapter 12 – Code of Civil Procedure;
-Chapter 13 – Commercial Code;
-Chapter 16 – Civil Code;
Law provisions are numbered, with every number in bold constituting a specific provision (also known as articles or sections). The numbers following in brackets, (x), are called subsections or sub-articles. When referring to a provision of the law, one refers to them by its numbers (e.g. 1.(2) – Article 1 subarticle 2; Section 1 subsection 2).
Sometimes, you will find that below an article of law, a proviso is inserted (in the English versions, starting with the words, “provided that...”). The provisos usually provide for exceptions to the rules or as a further clarification of a rule expounded in the article above it.
Article 1 is usually the title of the law (e.g. Criminal Code “The title of this Code is Criminal Code.”). Sometimes, Article 2 contains definitions that are to be used reading the law. This is known as an ‘interpretation clause’. Definitions will be found all throughout the law, especially in the longer Codes (such as the Civil Code, Code of Civil Procedure, etc.). It’s imperative that such definitions are kept in mind when reading the law.
Sometimes, at the end of the Law, you will find Forms, Schedules and Transitory Provisions.
Legal notices usually follow a similar formula.