Like Judges, Magistrates are
appointed by the President of Malta acting in accordance with the advice of the
Prime Minister. Magistrates sit in the Inferior Courts, and they enjoy the same
security of tenure as Judges, with their salary being likewise a charge on the
Consolidated Fund and which may not be reduced.
To be appointed a Magistrate, one must have practised as an advocate in Malta for not less than seven years. Until very recently a Magistrate had to vacate his office upon reaching the age of sixty years, which was an anomaly since the general retiring age of public officers was sixty-one. This mandatory retiring age has now been raised to sixty-five, thus bringing it in line with that of Judges. Before commencing to exercise his judicial functions, a Magistrate must take before the President of Malta the prescribed oath of allegiance and the oath of office.
In the Island of Gozo, Magistrates perform the functions of Judges in many civil matters. In fact the Court of Magistrates (Gozo) has a twofold jurisdiction: an inferior jurisdiction by virtue of which it takes cognizance of all causes of a civil nature which in Malta would be heard by the Court of Magistrates (Malta), and a superior jurisdiction by virtue of which it takes cognizance, with some exceptions, of causes which in Malta would be heard by the First Hall of the Civil Court and by the Civil Court (Voluntary Jurisdiction Section). One notable exception is in respect of applications or references alleging a violation of fundamental human rights (whether in terms of the Constitution or in terms of the European Convention on Human Rights), which must always be tried in first instance before the First Hall of the Civil Court in Malta. Until some time ago, appeals from judgments of the Court of Magistrates (Gozo) in its superior jurisdiction were heard by a court composed of three Magistrates who would regularly travel to Gozo from Malta to hear these appeals. These appeals are now heard in Gozo by a single Judge.
Ten of the twenty-one Judges currently in office served as Magistrates before being appointed Judges. These are, in order of seniority, Gino Camilleri, Carmelo Farrugia Sacco, David Scicluna, Noel Cuschieri, Abigail Lofaro, Michael Mallia, Lawrence Quintano, Silvio Meli, Anthony Ellul and Jacqueline Padovani Grima.
Although Magistrates are generally appointed both for the Island of Malta and for the Island of Gozo, in the case of Magistrate Dr Paul Coppini his appointment is limited to the Island of Gozo.
According to Article 7(2) of the Code of Organization and Civil Procedure, the Chief Justice may designate one of the Magistrates as Senior Magistrate. The person so designated, who does not have to be the person who is most senior in terms of appointment to the Bench of Magistrates, is to perform such duties and functions as may be assigned to him by the Chief Justice or as may be provided by any law for the time being in force. Four Magistrates have to date been so designated since the office was created in 2007: Michael Mallia, Silvio Meli, Jacqueline Padovani Grima (all three have since moved on to the Superior Courts as Judges) and Antonio Mizzi.
The Magistrature is made up of:
Magistrates (in order of seniority)
Magistrate Dr Carol Peralta
Magistrate Dr Paul Coppini
Magistrate Dr Saviour Demicoli
Magistrate Dr Tonio Micallef Trigona
Magistrate Dr Giovanni Grixti
Magistrate Dr Consuelo Scerri Herrera
Magistrate Dr Miriam Hayman
Magistrate Dr Anthony J. Vella
Magistrate Dr Audrey Demicoli
Magistrate Dr Doreen Clarke
Magistrate Dr Gabriella Vella
Magistrate Dr Claire Stafrace Zammit
Magistrate Dr Marse-Ann Farrugia
Magistrate Dr Francesco Depasquale
Magistrate Dr Josette Demicoli
Magistrate Dr Neville Camilleri
Magistrate Dr Ian Farrugia
Magistrate Dr Natasha Galea Sciberras
Magistrate Dr Aaron M. Bugeja
Magistrate Dr Charmaine Galea
Magistrate Dr Joanne Vella Cuschieri