The GSD has said that the decision to halt the prosecution in the Bland - 36 North case was taken by the Attorney General “in the political public interest” and not for reasons of national security. The party also says that the decision has had the effect of “burying material that is politically uncomfortable or damaging” to the Chief Minister.
A statement continued: “On Friday the Chief Minister intimated that national security was behind the Attorney General’s decision to halt the prosecution in the Bland-36 North case. So much so that GBC ran a headline that read “Picardo says public interest was engaged for national security reasons.”
“In fact, “national security” was not the specific public interest reason communicated to the Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi, by the Attorney General when he was briefed last week.
“The public interest reason communicated to the Leader of the Opposition was a political public interest. Presumably that was why the Attorney General had decided to brief Mr Azopardi on it. It would otherwise have been inconceivable for the Leader of the Opposition to have been briefed about the reasons behind the Attorney General’s decision to withdraw just an ordinary criminal case.
“The Attorney General asked the Leader of the Opposition not to spell out the precise reason in public communications which is something the GSD have respected and will continue to do so unless the Attorney General were to issue a more specific statement in future setting out greater detail which would require further comment.
“The issue of course is that the elected Government and the Chief Minister as its most senior elected representative must have a view on the political public interest reason that drove the Attorney General. Assuming he shares that reason it puts the Chief Minister in a position of complete conflict with his personal political interests in not wanting to see other unrelated material that is politically embarrassing or politically damaging to his personal political interests see the light of day. Whatever protestations Mr Picardo makes about his willingness to have cooperated with Police and desire to give evidence in the case this must undoubtedly have been a politically uncomfortable case for him. The effect (if not the intention) of the AG’s decision is to bury evidence which is politically damaging to Mr Picardo.
“The AG informed the Leader of the Opposition that he had not taken into account whether the case would have that effect when reaching his decision. There is a competing public interest that Ministers should not be seen to personally benefit as a result of a decision ostensibly taken for other public interest reasons.
“That is why the GSD take the view that those two competing public interests were not properly put in the balance by the Attorney General when considering whether another course should be taken such as, for example, applying to court for privacy measures short of collapsing the case completely. We also take the view that the decision has now had the effect, convenient to Mr Picardo’s personal interests, of burying material that is politically uncomfortable or damaging to him.”