This will be a series of posts written in the aftermath of the publication on Saturday of the inquiry conducted by Magistrate Joe Mifsud that found no crime was committed when 12 people were left to die at sea and another 57 were pushed back to Libya during the Easter week. It was also the same week migrants were dragged out of Maltese territorial waters and put on course to Sicily in a related incident that may be the subject of a criminal investigation in Italy.

In a post published last Friday, this website reported that Magistrate Joe Mifsud, apparently in error, sent a copy of the inquiry to his judiciary colleagues with the comment ‘you have a lot to read’.

Indeed, the published version of the report is a hefty 419 pages which given that it was written in less than four weeks is a veritable double-spaced miracle. A closer look at the contents of the intimidating report, however, suggests otherwise.

The first 78 pages of the report is a rendition of statements given to the inquiry which will then be repeated in various sections later in the report. At Page 78, without apparent context and certainly no explanation, the inquiry report quotes Victoria T Zicafoose and her poem ‘Walk in My Shoes’.

I confess I had not heard of this lady from Mesa, Arizona who wrote Walk in My Shoes because one of her daughters has a severe disability. It’s a sad poem no doubt but the relevance in the context is unfortunately unspecified by the magistrate.

Next comes another quote, this time from George Vella, who spoke at his inaugural address about his opposition to abortion. Although perhaps the magistrate intended this to mean that pregnant women at sea should be temporarily saved from drowning until they give birth, he unfortunately did not amplify.

Pages 79 to 88 are dedicated to the magistrate’s musings on migration, free speech and national security. No attempt is made to demonstrate the relevance of any of these considerations to the question on whether a crime has been committed.

Pages 89 to 105 were written by Repubblika. The reports filed with the police are reproduced here.

Pages 105 to 150 are a news round-up. Not a summary. A collection of entire articles reproduced in toto. He includes quotes from Medecin Sans Frontiere who describe Libya as unsafe for migrants. 

Then more magisterial musings from page 150 to page 237 as we hover over the dunes of Joe Mifsud’s opinions on his own role as a magistrate, on the rights of migrants, on the government’s policies on migration, on the rights of soldiers, on the rights of the media, on international rules on sea rescue, on the job of NGOs and on the state of public health.

In many of these sections entire chapters from published authors are reproduced, occasionally decorated with inverted commas. Working on the principle that copying from one or two books is plagiarism, but copying from three or more is research, the magistrate gives us a lot of research. None of it feeds into the conclusions.

On page 238, the report provides a treatise on the nature of the crimes that the police were asked to investigate. There is no investigation to report as such. The police appeared to have only provided the magistrate with a precis of Repubblika’s report which, though reproduced, was pointless because the magistrate reproduced Repubblika’s report in full as well.

In fact, the police – the only entity in Malta with the legal power (and duty) to investigate a crime – provide no material input to the inquiry.

The material assessment of the crime starts on page 354 of the report with the conclusions listed on pages 406 to 410. The remaining 18 pages are made up of an annexed list of the documents quoted in the report, though all have been listed numerous times in the footnotes of the text.

Of 419 pages, the inquiry report has 56 substantive pages. That makes the assessment of the assessment less intimidating than the magistrate perhaps intended it to be.

Follow these pages this evening for more.