[WATCH] New judges, magistrates sworn in

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that the appointment to judge of Consuelo Scerri Herrera was long overdue • 51% of the judiciary are now women

New judges: Grazio Mercieca (left), Consuelo Scerri Herrera (centre) and Anthony Vella (right)
New judges: Grazio Mercieca (left), Consuelo Scerri Herrera (centre) and Anthony Vella (right)
Joseph Muscat is asked about Judge Consuelo Scerri Herrera's appointment

Three new judges and three new magistrates were sworn in this afternoon.

Judges Grazio Mercieca, Consuelo Scerri Herrera and Anthony Vella took the oath, administered by President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca and Attorney General Peter Grech at the palace in Valletta.

Elevated to the Bench were lawyers Rachel Montebello, Simone Grech and Astrid May Grima.

President Coleiro Preca hailed the day a "historic" one, given that 51% of the judiciary were now women, up from just 35% in 2013.

"This shows the importance of political will," she said as she congratulated Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Justice Minister Owen Bonnici, both of whom were in attendance today.

Bonnici said the appointments were "a step in the right direction" expressing his satisfaction that there were now three judges in the family court. Efficiency will increase he said, adding that he was glad to hear the new appointees state that they wanted to attack their workload.

Astrid May Grima (left), Rachel Montebello (centre) and Simone Grech (right)
Astrid May Grima (left), Rachel Montebello (centre) and Simone Grech (right)

"Justice delayed is an injustice," he said.

Chief Justice Joseph Azzopardi warned that the new judges and magistrates were not going to have a fun summer, as they had a lot of tasks lined up for them, but was glad that most of the former magistrates were not leaving a backlog of cases to their successors.

Judge Consuelo Scerri Herrera, a magistrate for 21 years, said she had left no backlog and was intent on attacking the 1000-strong case backlog of the Criminal Court, where she will now be serving.

Asked about whether Scerri Herrera’s appointment was of concern to him, given that she had been turned down for the post before, Muscat praised the judge, insisted that she should have been promoted long ago.

Speaking to reporters shortly after the ceremony, Muscat said her track record spoke for itself.

"I'm surprised that she hadn't been made a judge already. That is what raises concerns," he said.  

Scerri Herrera's nomination had previously been turned down by the judicial appointments committee however its position changed when she was nominated a second time.

The magistrate has an exemplary track record, leaving no backlog to her successor and is widely respected by her peers in the legal profession.

Scerri Herrera is Environment Minister Jose Herrera’s sister.

Justice Minister Owen Bonnici denied that Scerri Herrera had been rejected by the commission, saying that the government had followed the advice it had been given on both occasions.

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