George Borg (judge)

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George Borg

George Borg (23 April 1887 – 29 June 1954) was a Maltese judge and politician. He was Chief Justice of Malta between 1940–1952.

George Borg was born in Valletta on the 23 April 1887. After studying in the private school of Sigismondo Savona, he attended the Royal University of Malta where he graduated as a Legal Procurator in December of 1907. He continued his studies in law at the University of Catania, in Sicily, from where he graduated in 1913 with the degree of Doctor of Jurisprudence, and later followed a post-graduate course in Rome. As was required by the provisions of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure then in force, he was examined in various legal disciplines by a Board of the Royal University of Malta and was subsequently granted the warrant to practice as an advocate in the Courts of Malta.

Dr Borg’s first love was for politics. He unsuccessfully contested the general elections of 1924 and 1927. In 1932 he was elected to the Senate, and seven years later, as Deputy Leader of the Constitutional Party, he was returned to the Council of Government. In that same year, that is 1939, he was appointed, together with Lord Gerald Strickland, as a member of the Executive Council by the Governor, Sir Charles Bonham Carter; and he served as chairman of several boards and commissions, including the one set up to revise the criminal and commercial codes. He also sat on the General Council of the Royal University of Malta, and for several years he was editor of the Malta Daily Herald.

In 1940 George Borg was appointed Chief Justice and took up his office on 1 January of the following year. He thus succeeded Sir Arturo Mercieca who had been illegally forced to resign by the then Governor, Sir William Dobbie. He held the office until his retirement in 1952.

The beginning of the judicial career for George Borg must not have been easy, and this primarily for two reasons. He began his judicial career at a time when air raids over Malta were on the increase – and in fact kept on increasing up to the latter part of 1942. Nevertheless with dogged determination he, like the other judges and magistrates, kept holding sittings of the various courts over which he presided as best as circumstances allowed even after the law courts in Valletta were completely demolished during a raid on the 13 May 1941 and sittings of the Superior Courts had to be temporarily held at the Archbishop’s Seminary in Floriana; and he was even slightly injured in one of the raids at the sea-plane base of Kalafrana while administering the oath of office to the newly arrived Governor, Lord Gort.

But it was also difficult for George Borg because of the political controversy surrounding the forced removal of his predecessor. No doubt many considered, and still to this day consider, his appointment as having been a highly political one – a Chief Justice with allegedly pro-Italian sentiments had been removed from office to be replaced by a politician from the eminently pro-British Constitutional Party. Yet, to his credit, George Borg, following upon a tradition of which the Maltese are immensely proud, did what every lawyer appointed to the Bench does upon assuming the oath of office – he rose completely above politics, and not one single judgement which he delivered during his tenure of office can be criticised on the ground of his previous political background.

Even the judgement in the well-known case of Carmelo Borg Pisani – the only treason trial in Malta during the war – has never been criticised by anyone with regard to any one of the three judges who sat in judgement in that case – George Borg, and Judges Edgar Ganado and William Harding – on the ground of the previous political background of any one of them.

George Borg was knighted by George VI when the king visited Malta in 1942. On 13 September 1942, as the highest civil authority in Malta after the governor (at the time there was no local representative government), he received the George Cross on behalf of the Maltese people from the hands of new Governor Lord John Gort, who had replaced Governor Dobbie, in honour of their defence during the Siege of Malta in the Second World War. His wife, Beatrice, watched from the balcony of what was then known as the Governor’s Palace while their children, Joyce, then aged 15, Rosemarie, 13 and Ivan watched the ceremony from the roof of the Garrisons Library opposite.

He died in Valletta on 29 June 1954