316 requests for data removal from courts’ online database in 6 years

Law Courts
Miguela Xuereb

There were a total of 316 requests for data removal from the courts’ online database in six years, of which 254 were upheld.

Since 2014, private individuals could invoke their right to be forgotten from the eCourts database.

The information was tabled in Parliament by Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis following a question by Opposition MP Karl Gouder.

The justice minister was asked to list the decided court cases both in the criminal and civil jurisdiction of the courts which were removed from the courts’ database after private individuals invoked their right to be forgotten.

In his parliamentary question, Gouder asked for the dates, parties involved, court reference number, reason for removal request, date of request and who requested it. This was however turned down, with the minister citing EU and national law provisions against the disclosure of such data.

In his reply, Zammit Lewis explained that when the court agency receives a request from a individual asking to have the sentence removed, the judgement is not removed from the courts’ database. Legal professionals can still access such sentences through the Legal Case Management or Lecam while the public has access to the archive.

Over the past six years, 121 requests were filed in 2018 making it the most year in which such requests were filed. In 2014, one one request was filed, while in 2017 there were 21 requests, and 100 and 73 requests in 2019 and 2020 respectively.

Out of 316 requests, 254 court judgements have been either anonymized or are in the process of being anonymized.

56 requests were turned down while two were invalid and three were retracted.

The justice minister explained that in light of the data controller’s decision for these sentences to no longer be available for public consumption online and after having considered the provisions in the Data Protection Act, the Data Protection Directive (95/46/EC) and the Data Protection Regulation (EU 2016/679), the details requested by the Opposition MP will not be disclosed.

The requests for data removal from eCourts are decided by an ad hoc committee composed of the head of the Court Services Agency, the Director General of the Court in Gozo, the director or registrar of the Civil Court, the director or registrar of the Criminal Court and the director responsible for data protection within the justice ministry.