As criticism poured in from across the spectrum of society to the announced ‘amnesty’ for Covid-19 related fines, Newsbook.com.mt asked a legal expert on the validity of such an ‘amnesty’. The legal expert, who preferred not to be named said that “If the Prime Minister’s motivation for erasing COVID fines is his way of celebrating the end of whatever, without having a legal basis, then it goes against the rule of law and against the maintenance of public order”. The expert added that “Government has granted amnesties in the past with regards to breaches of planning law (2015), non-registration of firearms (2006) and of taxidermy of protected birds, just to mention a few examples. The idea behind this is to regularize and bring a procedure or an administrative mechanism up-to-date. Amnesties are meant to be a legal tool that promotes distributional justice”.
However, some of these fines have already been decided by court, Newsbook.com.mt observed. So, what is the state of play there? “In any case, those fines that have already been decided by Courts need to be pardoned by the President upon advice from the AG, and not by the Prime Minister or the Home Affairs Minister,” said the legal expert. There is also another angle which the legal expert pointed out: “the PM has promised no interference in police work, so this opens up a can of worms for police leadership”.
Earlier on Sunday, Robert Abela, speaking as the leader on the party radio announced a Prime Ministerial decision that an amnesty was being given to those fined for not following the COVID-19 social distancing measures. He explained that this amnesty would apply to those individuals who did not have ‘ill intent’ when not following the social distancing regulations. He added that this amnesty would also apply to those who already paid their fines, following an appeal. Abela said that cases include people waiting outside supermarkets and ‘unthinkingly’ not keeping their distance.