Right to be forgotten controversially introduced into Maltese law
A recent press release from November 16, 2018 revealed that Malta’s Justice Minister introduced the right to be forgotten through a ministerial decree. Since 2013, 86 out of 131 judgments have either been anonymized or removed from the courts’ public database. The information came as a surprise to Malta’s legal community, as there had been no public announcement regarding the new right. The exact date the new right was introduced has not been confirmed.
The discovery was made back in March 2018 by Times of Malta during research of a case in which judges had granted two law students permission to practice law, despite their criminal records. The newspaper’s investigators were unable to retrieve the judgment of the original criminal sentence of one of the law students from the courts’ publicly available database.
The right to be forgotten has been applied in Malta despite the lack of written criteria. Instead, Malta’s Justice Minister, who introduced the ministerial decree privately, refers all decisions on the right to be forgotten to Malta’s director general and data controller of the courts. This has caused some controversy, as the director general is not part of the judiciary, but rather is a public servant who serves politicians.
According to the director general, Malta’s “established” criteria for applying the right to be forgotten with respect to court judgments are:
- the reason for the request;
- the time that elapsed since the date of judgment; and
- the negative effects on other citizens.
Although there may no longer be access to the judgments deleted from the courts’ public database, the Justice Minister insists that lawyers are still able to access all judgments via the courts’ internal database.