The Director General of Courts of Malta has been granted the unfettered power to erase court judgments from a public government website, without any specific criteria defined by law.
Although no âright to be forgottenâ law has been implemented in Malta, the ministry of justice published a legal opinion which officially authorizes the CEO of the Court Services Agency to “determine whether a person has valid grounds for exercising the right to erasure of personal data with regard to the content of a court decision published online”.
The right to erasure of personal data from a court decision takes effect either by anonymizing the decision or any part of it or by removing the decision from the website entirely.
The Director of Courts now has the discretion to rule on a request to exercise the right to erase personal data from a court judgment published on the website of the Judicial Services Agency.
MaltaToday has already personally protested against this practice to the former Director General of Courts and the former Minister of Justice.
The âRight to be forgottenâ was enshrined in EU law in 2014. On request, this law stipulates that search engines and other directories (such as court judgments) must remove all links to information on an individual, as long as it is ‘inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive.’ This “deletion” prevents the material from being searched through search engines such as Google.
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Critics from the ârightâ include the CEO of human resources company Konnekt, Josef Said: âThe price paid is the erosion of collective memory. It is generally in the common interest that the information is available free of charge. While some people may see their lives ruined by unfair online distortion, many who ask to be forgotten have something wrong to hide. I think I should be able to hunt and find scammers, crooked businessmen and criminals.
In 2018 MaltaToday obtained a list of 22 judgments withdrawn from the e-court system as part of an access to information request.
Since a mandated lawyer had his parole taken from the online court system, it was revealed that former minister Owen Bonnici had granted the court director discretionary power over requests to withdraw judgments.
The two students, Yanica Barbara, 28 from Attard, and Thomas Sant, 30, from Qormi, were released on parole at the end of 2009 and mid-2010 respectively after being convicted of theft a few years ago.
The Association of Judges and Magistrates said the two students were “conditionally released and, in law, such a decision is not a conviction,” meaning the charge is not included in a record. in Malta, and nothing prevents the two graduates from obtaining a mandate to practice law.
Barbara’s 2010 sentence was removed after the court’s chief executive accepted her request to strike the judgment from the database.
The Maltese Computer Law Association has previously said that removing personal data from a government-run online service that contains public documents, especially court rulings, cannot simply be compared to removing search engine.
“Furthermore, the right to be forgotten is not an absolute right – data controllers such as the court director must take into consideration whether the public interest is served by deletion or not, and the importance of the erasure of personal data, “said lawyer Antonio Ghio. MaltaToday had said.
âThe application of public interest considerations restricting the right to be forgotten is stronger when the request for the erasure of public data is not addressed to a search engine, or to a newspaper, but to the custodian of the ‘public archive. ”
The legal opinion published by Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis does not contain any publicly available rule, policy or procedure that describes how a person exercises their right to be forgotten.
MITLA states that complainants cannot expect to be “absolved” of the truth of their past on all occasions, especially when this availability of information is still relevant for the present and the future, whether as individuals or as a society as a whole, especially considering this position. that some people, including public officials, have.
âWithout precise rules, the right to be forgotten cannot serve as a blank check to rewrite our (personal) history, especially when it comes to crimes that affect the whole of society. If we embark on this dangerous path, will we continue to erase other more heinous crimes, just because it is not fair for his criminal past to follow one for the rest of his life? Where would be fairness and justice for the victims of this crime? Where would that leave society as a whole? Ghio asked.