The Chamber of Advocates issued a statement to react to Robert Abela’s comments yesterday about a chat he had with an unnamed magistrate about decisions taken by the judiciary in criminal cases which the prime minister thought were too lenient.

I found some comfort in a couple of observations the Chamber of Advocates made with which I agree. The conversation the prime minister admitted he had had is in and of itself unethical and inappropriate. If the prime minister is unhappy about punishments handed down for crimes, it’s up to him to propose changes to the laws to make the punishments harsher. Bullying the judiciary does not and should not help.

I am not putting up this post to say that the Chamber of Advocates has done well to agree with me. Even I am not that arrogant.

I am putting this post up because of something else the Chamber of Advocates said. There are bigger problems in the judicial system than the length of prison sentences handed down. The Chamber says that “the time has come to have a genuine and serious look at how we can update the judicial and legal eco-system so that it can fulfil its duties more efficiently and in a manner which is brought up to date with the requirements of the twenty-first century.”

I’m old enough to remember a time when dropping the words “for the twenty-first century” was planning changes as part of a long-term vision into the future; being prepared, ahead of time, for future requirements we could then barely imagine.

Using the phrase “for the twenty-first century”, now that a quarter of it is nearly out already, is an indictment, it’s a turn of phrase that says that our “judicial eco-system” is nearly three generations behind time.

That’s stunning.

The Chamber of Advocates says something else: “It is this context that drives the view of the Chamber of Advocates that there should be a serious and committed effort by all those involved, to commence without delay discussions to draw up a thought-through plan to reform the sector.”

Now this too is stunning. With all the talk about this being a reforming government and with all the ministerial pledges that the justice system is on the cusp of transformation, the Chamber of Advocates, one of the two or three most obvious stakeholders that the government would need to first talk to before thinking of making changes to the justice system, is saying that the discussion hasn’t even started.

The Chamber of Advocates is marvellously careful with words. But why did they use a statement to react to the prime minister’s remarks about how unhappy he is with the length of prison sentences being handed down, to remind the prime minister that his government hasn’t started talking with them about a reform outstanding at least for a quarter of a century?

Because what they’re really telling the prime minister in words they would not choose is: ‘Before you start calling out judges and magistrates for not quite doing their job the way you’d wish them to, Mr Prime Minister, get busy doing your own job which you’ve been neglecting and which has been causing more harm to the justice system than any single court decision you, though it is not your place to do so, might want to publicly complain about.’

Or better, ‘Shut up and do your job’.