Judge Silvio Meli’s remarks in court today are odd in so many ways.

He would probably describe this article as part of the “manipulative orchestration of the media” and that in and of itself it “causes damage to the country”. He is clearly at liberty to do so. And when he exercises his right to extemporate from his bench, the rest of the country is at liberty to tell him what they think of his remarks.

Let us start with the context. The Caruana Galizia family asked the court to review the police’s administrative decision to retain the husband of a government minister as chief investigator into the murder of their wife and mother even if at least some of her Cabinet colleagues are possible suspects in the crime.

The Caruana Galizia family hired Maltese lawyers to argue their case in front of a Maltese court. They did so after direct appeals to the administrative body whose decision is being reviewed, disagreed with their position.

Now Maltese law incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights. The family wanted to make its argument in court on the basis of alleged breaches of that Convention. Naturally only members of the Maltese bar can argue in front of a Maltese judge.

But there are experts in the European Convention on Human Rights all over Europe. The Caruana Galizias sought the expertise of British lawyers they were familiar with who advised them that their request to the administrative authority was soundly grounded in law. And since that request was reviewed, the competent court enforcing the European Convention on Human Rights can be reasonably expected to uphold the same view.

That’s what legal advice is for. It does not give certainty of a favourable judgement. But it does prepare a client with a professional opinion that a grievance they might feel is not in their mind, but can be argued on legal grounds.

I’m sorry your honour but I cannot agree with your view that advice given by a group of British lawyers to the Caruana Galizia family “undermined the rule of law by constituting an attack upon the independence and impartiality of the judiciary which lies at the heart of the sovereignty of law”.

Frankly I think this is rubbish of the first order. And unfortunately for the family pleading their case before you it betrays seriously worrying prejudice.

You complain of media orchestration attempting to manipulate the outcome of the process you are presiding over. You appear to have allowed yourself to be manipulated by that orchestration, but not the one you had in mind.

You have repeated the government’s grotesque view that seeking a legal opinion “constitutes an attack upon the independence and impartiality of the judiciary”. Just how many plaintiffs have appeared in front of your honour without having sought advice and a formed view that they try to persuade you of before you decide? I should think each and every one.

Why are the Caruana Galizias not entitled to this logical right to hold a view in a dispute they are seeking your judgement on?

You have repeated the government’s xenophobic notion that seeking a legal opinion on what is after all international law from international lawyers somehow amounts to neo-colonialism. It is your touchy reaction to an opinion from overseas that betrays a neo-colonial inferiority complex and a siege mentality that is faintly tragic.

Would your reaction have been different if the lawyers were Irish, Italian or Greek? Or even Maltese? On matters arising from the European Convention on Human Rights it really should not matter.

The Times described you speaking today in a calm tone, saying “that the existence of the case was in itself causing damage to the country”.

It is no wonder I could never be a lawyer. I do not know in what universe anyone should remain calm when hearing a judge say that, in the same context where you argued defensively about the independence of the judiciary.

In what democracies are private citizens advised by a judge (repeating the line of a government, incidentally) NOT to pursue what they believe are their legitimate rights in a court of law because doing so could somehow make the country look bad?

What point have we reached where you are instructed by a judge to seek “an amicable solution” with a government you believe is denying you your fundamental human rights? This is not a property dispute. This is an argument over fundamental rights which a group of private citizens is alleging are being denied them. How can any judge be so bloody flippant?

Have you, your honour, adopted the fascist notion of this autocratic government, that criticising the administration is equivalent to “damaging the country”? It would appear that you have.

Notice your honour that I have not even attempted to argue whether the Caruana Galizias are right or wrong about feeling Silvio Valletta should not continue to investigate their mother’s assassination. I was rather looking forward to hear your views on the matter. And so have the Caruana Galizias. Why else would they have approached your courtroom to argue their case and submit to your decision?

Theirs indeed was respect for your independence and the wisdom of your judgement. The government instead tried to quash their attempt to seek justice in your hall by intimidatory and baseless accusations of neo-colonialism and even sedition. It is the government that has treated your ability to decide impartially with contempt. And after your speech today it appears to have done so with good reason.

The country expected you to have taken a dim view of any controversy and manipulation outside your chamber and to have taken a fresh look at the case without fear or favour.

The last thing the country expects you to be concerned about is the government’s public relations and the embarrassment its refusal to order the recusal of the spouse of one of its ministers from investigating a crime they are suspected of, is causing in the rest of the world.

In discussing rule of law in Malta and the weaknesses of our institutions, civil society activists have repeatedly said in the past weeks that the Maltese courts remain our final comfort, our last bastion of protection from the overwhelming weight of the executive’s excesses and abuse of power.

And yet today, your honour, we are less certain.