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MALTATODAY 3 July 2022

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13 NEWS maltatoday | SUNDAY • 3 JULY 2022 late in the evening. The CPD re- turned to the site over the course of the next four days, as some carob trees kept on burning for at least eight days. Caruana estimates that the damaged equipment and loss of revenue from the burnt trees, could have cost him around €95,000. "The damages were ter- rible, as some 250 olive trees were completely or partially burnt down." He said some of the olive trees were around 30-35 years old. Orange trees, fig trees, vines, fir trees and cypress trees were also burned down in the fires. "We lost the whole irrigation system in the fires and we now have to start over from scratch, spending a lot of time and money in an attempt to salvage our oper- ations," Caruana said in despera- tion. "We spoke to several ex- perts who recommended that we keep watering the trees continu- ously, to aid in their recovery." Once he realised the extent of the damage, Caruana even thought of giving everything up. "It didn't take long before I changed my mind, as I can't im- agine myself doing anything else. No one takes farming away from you, if you're passionate about it." "We won't make any revenue this year and the next, as it will take around two years for the ol- ive trees to produce fruit again. This also depends on the amount of rainfall and most probably they won't produce as many olives as they did before." An inquiry into the grassfire has been launched and Caruana provided the police with a break- down of the expenses he now fac- es. He remains sceptical that this was a natural grassfire, suspect- ing it was accidentally caused by human intervention. "Someone must have been burning some material and probably underesti- mated the severity of the wind," Caruana said. KURT SANSONE THE mental health commissioner is looking into controversial guidelines that require lawyers to divulge physi- cal or mental health problems to obtain their warrant. Denis Vella Baldacchino said he will be seeking a meeting with the commit- tee that drew up the 'fit and proper test' to understand the reasoning behind the guidelines and questionnaire that law- yers have to fill. The committee for lawyers and legal procurators is headed by former chief justice Silvio Camilleri, which falls un- der the purview of the Commission for the Administration of Justice, a constitu- tional body. It was set up after changes to the law last year. "I want to understand the committee's reasoning behind such guidelines and the relative questionnaire that lawyers have to fill. I have to make sure that there is no discrimination against anyone who dis- closes any such personal information," Vella Baldacchino told MaltaToday. The proposed test is at the heart of a stand-off between the committee and Justice Minister Jonathan Attard, who is objecting to some of the invasive ques- tions. The guidelines have to be approved by the minister. Attard told parliament last week that he sent back the guidelines with some ob- servations and changes. The impasse is holding back the war- ranting process for more than 100 law- yers and legal procurators, who are oblivious as to what the test contains. The Justice Minister told this newspa- per on Friday that he has not received feedback from the committee to changes he has proposed. "Unfortunately, the Committee for Lawyers and Procurators has not re- plied back to the reservations raised and changes proposed by the ministry," At- tard said. The minister called an urgent meeting last week with law student organisations, representatives of the law faculty at the university and the University Students' Council, to keep them abreast of devel- opments. "During the meeting, I gave an overview of the situation and there was agreement on the concerns raised by the ministry over the guidelines," Attard said. "I am willing to take every step possible to not only ensure that this fit and proper test is concluded successfully, but also that the awarding ceremony for warrants is held as quickly as possible." The test, seen by MaltaToday, contains a section on health issues in which law- yers are expected to declare current and past physical or mental health problems spanning a 10-year period. Another probing question is whether they have a drug, alcohol or gambling ad- diction, or whether they had one in the previous 10 years, irrespective of wheth- er they have recovered. The revelations have raised eyebrows among lawyers who cannot complete their warranting process. Lawyers have to take written and oral exams before filling in the new fit and proper ques- tionnaire. The written and oral components of the warranting process were completed a couple of months ago and lawyers are now waiting for the latest impasse to be resolved. "We have absolutely no idea what this fit and proper test contains but it is dis- quieting to learn, thanks to the news- paper, that it requires us to declare any mental or physical issues," one lawyer told MaltaToday. Divulging personal health matters should be at applicant's discretion Opposition justice spokesperson Karol Aquilina said he does not have visibili- ty of the draft guidelines but expressed confidence that the committee is carry- ing out its duties "diligently and profes- sionally and that its proposals are meant to elevate the standards of the legal pro- fession and improve the administration of justice". Aquilina said he expected the ministry to publish the guidelines for public con- sultation. Basing his comments on what has been reported by MaltaToday, Aqui- lina said most of the questions appear to be in line with the discussions held dur- ing the parliamentary process leading to the setting up of the Committee for Ad- vocates and Legal Procurators. "However, it is to be noted that the fit and proper test was always intended to be a benchmark and not an exam one has to pass. On this basis, it would be ludicrous to request applicants to spe- cifically mention any medical or psycho- logical conditions they suffer from when applying for their warrant. The ultimate responsibility on whether such informa- tion is passed on to the committee at ap- plication stage should be entirely at the applicant's discretion," Aquilina said. Mental health commissioner looking into controversial lawyer warrant guidelines Committee does not respond to Justice Minister's concerns Former Chief Justice Silvio Camilleri heads the committee for lawyers and legal procurators, which falls under the purview of the Commission for the Administration of Justice "It would be ludicrous to request applicants to specifically mention any medical or psychological conditions they suffer from when applying for their warrant"

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