Introduction

Introduction
The Office of the Attorney General may well be traced back to the times of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, also known as the Knights of Malta, in the Offices of the Advocate and the Procurator Fiscal who were charged with the task of investigating and taking action in respect of all crimes. The present office of the Attorney General, however dates back to colonial times when Malta was under British rule and when by a proclamation of august 1832 the then British Lieutenant Governor abolished the Office of the Advocate Fiscal and other public legal offices and their duties devolved on to he Office of Her Majesty’s Attorney General who was established by the same law. The Attorney General was described in the law as the legal adviser of the government and ex ufficio General Magistrate at the time he was not pre-cluded the private practise of his profession in cases in which the interests of the government were not affected. He could be assisted by lawyers appointed from among the Maltese bar who were known as Kings Counsel. The Attorney General and the Kings Counsel had the right of audience in all Courts. Shortly after, in 1839, the Office of the Attorney General was suppressed and substituted by the Office of the Crown Advocate who became a full time government legal counsel who was excluded from private practise.
Under the 1887 colonial Constitution, the Crown Advocate became a member of the Executive Council (an organ of government) and therefore for the first time the Office became involved in the political process on the Brit-ish model. In 1921, however, the Crown Advocate’s involvement in the political arena came to an end and he no longer remained a member of the executive council, from here on, in this respect, the British model was abandoned.
In 1922, however, the Office of Public Prosecutor and Treasury Counsel was created and the criminal law duties which formerly vested in the Crown Advocate were now bestowed upon the said officer under the title of Public Prosecutor while the civil law duties previously vested on the Crown Advocate were rested in the same officer acting under he title of Treasury Counsel. This dual function of the Attorney General as Public Prosecutor and as principal legal counsel for the government in all other legal spheres has continued to this day.
In fact the Office of the Attorney General in its present form was constituted by the Attorney General and Counsel for the Republic (Constitution of Office) Ordinance of 1936. The Attorney General under this law inherited all the powers, duties and functions which were previously vested in the Public Prosecutor and Treasury Counsel. The Attorney General, therefore, became the public prosecutor and the principal legal counsel for government with the right of audience in all Courts.  He remained without any political office and his political independence was strengthened and enhanced when in 1964 his Office was entrenched in the Independence Constitution. The 1964 Independence Constitution provided that there shall be an Attorney General whose office shall be a public office. In the Constitution the Attorney General is deemed to be part of the Executive but it is also provided that in exercise of his powers to institute, undertake and discontinue criminal proceedings the Attorney General shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority. The same is provided in respect of other powers conferred on the Attorney General by any law in terms which authorise him to exercise that power in his individual judgment.
Today the Attorney General is appointed by the President acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister and for a person to qualify to hold office of Attorney General he must be qualified for appointment as a Judge of the Superior Courts. In order to ensure the independence of the Office of Attorney General the constitution provides him with the same guarantees of security of tenure and irrevocability as are granted to the judiciary. This means that the Attorney General may not be removed from office except by the President upon an address by the House of Representatives supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds of all members of the House. He may only be so removed, like judges, on the ground of proved inability to perform the functions of his office whether arising from infirmity of body or mind or any other cause or proved misbehaviour.
As may be evident the Attorney General is not just like any other public functionary holding a public office with powers of administration like any other head of department but he is an officer vested with substantial discretionary powers of a quasi-judicial character within the criminal and civil justice system.
The powers and functions of the Attorney General are extensive and wide ranging in all spheres of law whether criminal, civil, constitutional or administrative but they are certainly the most compelling and at the same time the most onerous in the area of criminal law.