How and where can I report a crime?
If you have suffered from a crime you can report it to the police. Your spouse, parent, brother, sister or guardian can report the crime instead of you. You can also inform the police if you have learned about a crime even when you are not the victim of that crime.
You can report a crime orally by going to the nearest police station or in writing by handing in a report at the police station or sending a letter. If you choose to send a written report you can draft it yourself or you can use the assistance of a lawyer. There is no obligatory form you have to follow but the report has to be in English or Maltese. You have to include your personal data. Anonymous reports are in principle allowed, but the police will open an investigation on such a report only if the crime is a very grave one.
There is no deadline for reporting a crime. However, the law states that if a certain period of time has passed after the commitment of the crime the offender can no longer be prosecuted. This period is different depending on the crime and ranges from three months for the least serious offences (e.g. verbal insult) to twenty years for particularly grave crimes (e.g. homicide). After that period you can still file a report but the police will not investigate the crime or, even if they conduct an investigation, the court will acquit the offender.
For some minor offences you need to file a special complaint with the police. These are the cases where without such a complaint the police are not allowed to open an investigation. Complaints are usually, but not necessarily, submitted in writing. You can use a lawyer to draft the complaint for you. In the complaint you have to include: your personal data (name, address, identity card number), information about the offender, description of the incident, and a list of witnesses you wish the police to interview including their addresses. It is also recommended, but not obligatory, to include a reference to the legal provision you think the offender has violated.
How can I follow up on what the authorities do after I report a crime?
When you report a crime you will receive a reference number. You can use this number to check the progress of your case. In practice, you can check also by using the date, on which you have submitted your report. You can receive information about the investigation by going to the police station or calling by phone.
How can I be involved in the investigation of the crime?
During the investigation you are not obliged to have a lawyer, but due to the complex procedures it is recommended that you have one. If you wish to be represented by a lawyer you have to pay for his/her services.
If you want you can share any information relevant to your case with the police. You do not need to prove any aspects of the crime, but if you have any evidence you consider important for the investigation you or your lawyer can present it to the police officer in charge of your case.
You will most probably be asked to appear for an interview as a witness.
In general, during the investigation the case file is confidential and is available only to the authorities dealing with your case.
What are my rights as a witness?
As a witness, you can refuse to answer certain questions. However, it is recommended that you respond to all the questions in order to facilitate the investigation and not give rise to suspicion that you are hiding information.
You are not obliged however to answer any question or produce any document or other exhibit which may tend to incriminate you.
If you are in danger you have a right to be placed under a witness protection programme which will protect your life and property and that of members of your family and may include provisions for the payment of a subsistence allowance in particular cases.
I am a minor. Do I have additional rights?
If you are a minor your parent or guardian can report the crime to the police instead of you.
You can also receive psychological counselling, advice and other assistance from the national social welfare agency for children and families in need Appogg. The services are free of charge and do not depend on the investigation of the crime.
If you are a child and you are dependent on the alleged offender (e.g. the alleged offender is your parent) you can be accommodated in a special facility of the Ministry of Social Solidarity where you will receive help and support by qualified psychologists and social workers.
What information can I obtain from police or victim support organisations during the investigation of the crime?
The authorities dealing with your case are not obliged to provide you with information. You can receive information about your rights and about your participation in the proceedings from your lawyer if you have one.
Can I receive legal aid?
Legal aid free of charge is not available to victims during the investigation of the crime.
How can I get protection, if I am in danger?
If the police conclude that the offender is a dangerous person and there is a risk of repercussion it will request the court to order detention.
You can also ask the police officer in charge of your case to place you under a witness protection programme. You have to declare that you will testify against the offender during the court hearing. If the police officer is convinced that your testimony or other evidence you have are important for the case he/she will ask the Attorney General to place you under a witness protection programme. The programme may also cover members of your family and other relatives. It usually consists of measures that ensure your personal safety and/or protect your property.
What services and assistance can I be given during the investigation of the crime?
You can receive medical assistance but you need to pay for it unless you have a valid health insurance. Citizens of the 27 EU Member States, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland can benefit from the European Health Insurance Card. If necessary, you can also receive psychological and other forms of assistance but you have to pay for the services received.
Are there opportunities to reach settlement/conciliation or to start mediation between the offender and myself?
There are no opportunities to reach conciliation or start mediation between you and the offender. There is only a possibility for plea-bargaining between the public prosecutor and the offender but you will not be involved in this procedure. If the plea-bargaining is successful it will conclude with an agreement between the public prosecutor and the offender, which is then presented to the court for approval.
How will my case continue after the end of the investigation?
At the end of the investigation a decision will be made on whether there is sufficient evidence for a trial. Depending on how serious the crime is there are two possible options:
- If the crime is a less serious one and a police officer has carried out the investigation he/she will decide whether to bring the case before the Court of Magistrates for trial.
- If the crime is a serious one and an investigating magistrate has carried out the investigation a court hearing will take place at the Court of Magistrates. At this hearing the court will examine the evidence and if it decides that the case should go to trial it will send it to the Attorney General who will in turn bring it before the Criminal Court for trial.
If your case is brought to court for trial the police will send you a notification. If the court decides to interview you as a witness, the notification will also indicate the time and place of the interview.
Can I appeal if my case is closed without reaching the court?
If a police officer investigates the crime and he/she decides to close the case without bringing it to court as a victim you can appeal against this decision before the Court of Magistrates. The Court of Magistrates will ask you to confirm on oath the information you have provided in your report and to declare your readiness to testify in court. You will also have to pay a certain sum specified by the court as a guarantee that your intention to have the offender prosecuted is serious. The Court of Magistrates will examine the evidence and if it finds it sufficient will order the police to continue with the prosecution.
I am a foreigner. How are my rights and interests protected?
If you are a foreigner and you have suffered from a crime in Malta you have all the rights explained above. In addition, when you report a crime but you do not speak English or Maltese, you can use your mother tongue. The police will find an interpreter or make other necessary arrangements so that they can fully understand what is being reported.
During the investigation you can use the assistance of an interpreter but you have to pay for his/her services.
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