‘Lawyers should be sensitive to the peril of seeking publicity’ – Hyzler

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The Commissioner for Standards in Public Life George Hyzler warned that lawyers active in politics, even more than lawyers in general, should be particularly sensitive to the peril of seeking publicity for the cases they participate in, since this would fuel the perception that they identify with the case.

However, the Commissioner concluded that Minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government Owen Bonnici’s statement did not amount to a breach of the Code of Ethics for Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries, since its content related to the Minister’s official responsibilities.

The Commissioner had issued a report due to a complaint alleging that a press statement issued by the Minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government through the Department of Information (DOI) constituted inappropriate use of public resources because it was political in nature.

Read: Report calls for political impartiality in press statements

The Commissioner concluded that Minister Owen Bonnici’s statement did not amount to a breach of the Code of Ethics for Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries, since its content related to the Minister’s official responsibilities.

However, he expressed the view that Minister Bonnici would have been more in order had he omitted comments regarding Repubblika’s lawyers. These comments, which were intended to score political points, brought the statement dangerously close to crossing the line with regard to ethics.

The ministerial statement announced that the constitutional court had turned down civil society group Repubblika’s application to stop the appointment of three judges and three magistrates.

The report criticised Repubblika’s lawyers, Simon Busuttil and Jason Azzopardi, for trying to stop the appointments notwithstanding that these were being made in accordance with the method of appointment in the Constitution that the two lawyers had voted in favour of, as members of parliament, a couple of years earlier.