The State Advocate shall fork out €42,144 as a form of compensation for a case which took almost two decades to be decided. The amount of compensation has been established by the First Hall Civil Court in its Constitutional Jurisdiction on 12 February 2021.
The case was originally filed in 2000 against the Debarro family, for a claim related to property law. The first hearing took place in May of that same year. Each Party to the suit took three years to produce its evidence and in 2007 the Civil Court put off the case for judgement. It was only in 2014 that a judgement was delivered however, with the Court deciding in favour of the Debarros.
An appeal was filed against the Debarro family on 14 March 2014. The first hearing took place in December 2018. Finally, on 17 June 2019, the Court of Appeal, in its Superior Jurisdiction, upheld the appeal and found against the Debarros, ordering them to pay a sum of money including recurring interests as from March 2000. It took nineteen years and eighteen days for the Debarro family to obtain their final judgment.
Consequently, the Debarro family filed a Constitutional case against the State, claiming a breach of their right to a fair trial as enshrined under the European Convention on Human Rights and the Constitution of Malta. The Court, presided over by Mr Justice Grazio Mercieca, held that the original claim should have been decided in a span of five years, including the appeal stage at most.
The Constitutional Court made it clear that when such rights are breached the injured party shall, in homage to the latin maxim restitutio in integrum, be placed in the same position that he enjoyed (as much as possible) prior to the violation complained of. In its lengthy judgment, backed by various local and European case law, the Constitutional Court declared that the right to a fair trial of the Debarro family was breached and thus it ordered the State Advocate to pay the sum of €39,144 as pecuniary damages and the sum of €3,000 as non-pecuniary damages.
This case is considered as a landmark judgment since the principles of fair trial as enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, particularly that of justice delayed justice denied, were applied clearly and effectively. The Debarros were awarded a sum of money for delayed justice even though the final judgement was not pronounced in their favour.
Dr Ryan Ellul from Lex Group Legal appeared for the Debarro family.