The organisation and functions of the Office of the Legal Adviser in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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Contribution of 18/11/2016
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Database of the CAHDI "The organisation and functions of the Office of the Legal Adviser in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs" - contribution of Malta - 18/11/2016

1. What is the title, rank and position of the Legal Adviser?

The title of the senior officer at the Legal Unit at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is that of Senior Legal Officer, which is a position in the Legal Class in the Malta Public Service. He is an Advocate of the Superior Courts of Malta.

2. What are the principal functions of the OLA?

The Legal Unit acts as legal adviser to all departments at the Foreign Ministry for all legal matters, including civil cases and employment related matters. It is also responsible for data protection and freedom of information matters, as well as being the liaison with the Office of the Ombudsman.

3. Please give a brief description of staff employed by the OLA, including overseas staff. What is the distribution of posts between men and women within the OLA and what category of staff do they respectively belong to?

The Legal Unit has no overseas staff, even though a considerable number of diplomats serving in Malta’s missions abroad are qualified lawyers. There are currently two officers in the Legal Unit who hold appointments in the Diplomatic Class, but hold legal qualifications. A fourth officer in the Legal Class has been recruited very recently. Women currently outnumber men three to one.

4. Are there any specific recruitment and promotion policies, provisions and/or quotas to ensure non-discrimination and equal opportunities, e.g. for the underrepresented sex, for persons with disabilities or for persons belonging to ethnic or religious minorities or of immigrant origin?

There has been no specific recruitment for the Legal Unit up to now.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has no formal quota system in its recruitment and promotion policies but bases its decisions on an evaluation of candidates’ qualifications and abilities.

5. Is OLA staff trained on gender equality issues and are these issues mainstreamed into the OLA’s work?

Since all Legal Unit staff are legally qualified, they all would have needed to fulfil requirements on subjects such as on human rights, including non-discrimination, prior to joining MFA.

6. Briefly describe the organisation and structure of the OLA.

The Legal Unit was set up in 2013 and up to now has retained an informal structure. Previously, all legal matters were referred to the Office of the Attorney General (AG).

7. What is the OLA’s place within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?

The Legal Unit is under the direct responsibility of the Permanent Secretary.

8. What are the main contacts of the OLA within Government?

The remit of the Legal Unit is limited to MFA. Furthermore, Legal Unit is in regular contact with the Office responsible for the public service on human resource matters, as well as with other ministries, departments and governmental entities as the need arises.

9. Please describe the relations of the OLA with lawyers in private practice, academics and legal institutions.

The Attorney General (whose is the chief legal adviser to Government) undertakes litigation on behalf of the Ministry in the law courts and it is regularly in contact with the Legal Unit. For cases before tribunals abroad, the AG sometimes engages the services of well-known international lawyers and law firms.

Private law firms have occasionally been consulted and retained by MFA for particular cases.

Recently, academics have been contracted for specific projects e.g. for the chairing of legally-related working groups during Malta’s forthcoming Presidency of the European Council in 2017.

A number of law students from the University of Malta are sometimes engaged on brief summer internships. Furthermore, the Unit, upon specific requests, engages with law students who researching their dissertations.

10. Please provide a brief bibliography on the OLA, if available.

No such bibliography is available.