By Andrew Borg-Cardona:

It should be said at the very outset: Magistrate Tony Vella is eminently suited to become a Judge. He has the professional and personal attributes, not least of the latter of which being his humanity, integrity and practicality, which qualify him without any doubt whatsoever.

This should also be said about half-way down the piece and at the end, to be sure that even those of the meanest intelligence will get it, but it would look stupid, so I’ll leave it at this.

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Magistrate Vella for many years, both professionally and socially. He was a very sound lawyer (no higher praise from a colleague should come) an excellent musician (presumably still is) and an inexhaustible athlete, soubriqueted the Duracell Bunny. He’s also been a very good Magistrate.

This is not an obituary or an appreciation, however: my introduction is there to make sure that the rest of this piece isn’t misunderstood.

Because this is the nature of the beast with which we are dealing: the cunning plan behind the plan, the text within the text, if you like.

The idea is that anyone who gainsays the rumoured elevation of Tony Vella to the judgeship would be doing the man a signal disservice, because, you see, he’s eminently suited to the post.

So those lurking in the dark corners hope that we’ll all fall for it and keep quiet.

Yes, he is suited, no doubt about that.

The legal profession, at least those components of it who are not in thrall to Joseph Muscat and his minions, premier amongst them Owen Bonnici, however know full well that in the normal course of events, Tony Vella would not be ‘papabbli’ at this point in time, not by quite a long chalk.

There are others, within and outwith the judiciary, who would normally get a shot at the higher Bench way before him.

In fact, I’d go as far as to say that the very attributes that mark him out as suitable would not, with all due respect, cut much ice with the type of person who nominates Judges.

We’ve been lucky, thus far, not to have had evidence within the current judiciary of traits that gave – and still give – Judge Vanni Bonello such grief. Read his masterly contributions to the Sunday Times and you’ll see what I mean: the temptation to be pleasing to the Establishment is so strong that it takes a strong individual not to succumb.

Many succumbed in the past, happily less so in relatively recent days. Many, however, haven’t yet been tested and there are those of us within the profession who are waiting with interest, now that the environment is becoming as toxic as it was in Dom Mintoff and Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici’s days.

This all said, if one wanted to appear naive, one would have to wonder out loud what lies behind what can fairly be described as a sudden unseemly haste to elevate Vella.

Why – if it is true that it is so – is he being made an offer that many would say would be impossible for him to refuse?

The sub-text of the offer (if) made is quite clear: don’t take it up now and languish in the Magisteracy for the rest of your days.

This would be no dishonour, let it be made clear, many good men and true ended their careers as Magistrates, but times change and the assumption that one would not, in all fairness, refuse the offer is strong.

In the current context, it would be almost honourable to refuse, but let’s be realistic, shall we, and not presume to be more saintly than the Pope?

It has to be said, however: given the way the planets have aligned, there’s a pretty obvious reason why Magistrate Tony Vella, eminently suited as he is, is being touted for the judgeship.

Judges don’t conduct – or continue to conduct – Magisterial Inquiries or carry out other functions that are awkward for the criminally inclined.