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36 Commw. L. Bull. 469 (2010)
The Courts of Justice of Malta

handle is hein.journals/commwlb36 and id is 477 raw text is: Commonwealth Law Bulletin                                     Routledge
Vol. 36, No. 3, September 2010, 469-478                       Tayior&FrandsGroup
The Courts of Justice of Malta
Aldo Testone*
Director and Registrar, Civil Courts and Tribunals ofJustice of Malta
This presentation is a voyage inside the legal system obtaining in Malta. It is in
no way intended to discuss it. It is an overview of how the system functions, of
the importance of and differences between the various laws, and how they are
made and where they are applied. It will be followed by a visit to the various
Courts and Tribunals and a look at their respective competences.
An outline of the judicial system in Malta
The judicial system in Malta has a long history and as such is a hybrid and
complex one. The Maltese judicial system is basically a two-tier system with a
Court of First Instance presided over by a Judge or Magistrate, and a Court of
Appeal, consisting of three Judges when the appeal emerges from a Court
presided by a Judge, or a single Judge when the appeal emerges from a Court
presided over by a Magistrate. There are, besides, various Tribunals for special-
ised areas with varying degrees of competence. Almost all provide appeals to a
Court on points of law.
The Maltese judicial system is a reflection of the cross-currents which have
influenced Malta's history as a whole. The civil law and common law systems have
interacted to shape this judicial system.
The influence of Roman Law and of the Napoleonic Codes is readily identifi-
able in the Maltese judicial system, particularly civil law. Besides, English Law
(the common law system) has had, since the early part of the last century, its fair
share of influence on certain areas of criminal law and procedure. For instance,
Maltese criminal law has always adopted the maxim of the presumption of inno-
cence, in favour of the accused. Another similarity between the two legal systems
is that the presiding Judge sits with a jury. Other areas in civil law include public
law and in particular the law relating to merchant shipping.
During the long period before the advent of the Order of St John (the
Knights Hospitallers) in 1530, there was no law-making body proper in Malta.
The laws of the successive foreign rulers applied to Malta, though due recogni-
tion was also given to local customs. During this period Malta became part of
the European system and was governed by the legal principles recognised and
developed by the Continental system of law which itself was inspired by
Roman Law.
*Email: aldo.testone@gov.mt
ISSN 0305-0718 print/ISSN 1750-5976 online
C 2010 Commonwealth Secretariat
DOI: 10.1080/03050718.2010.500839

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