Mentally unstable man has been on remand for over 10 years – President of the Bar
The Supreme Court of Belize opened proceedings for the calendar and legal year this morning with the traditional pomp and ceremony as well as what has become the annual sober review of the challenges facing the Judiciary.
Holy Redeemer Cathedral hosted the traditional ecumenical service chaired by Roman Catholic Bishop Dorrick Wright, who was joined by his colleagues from the Belize Council of Churches.
Following the service, the legal luminaries paraded to the Supreme Court building on Regent Street, where a mounted guard of honor was displayed and speeches were given by Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin, Attorney General Wilfred Elrington and Senior Counsel and president of the Bar Association of Belize, Eamon Courtenay.
In his address the Chief Justice explained that there is a backlog of Supreme Court cases because there is a shortage in the number of Supreme Court judges. At this time, the court, which should be functioning with 9 Justices, only has 7, and will lose another this year, as Justice Rita Olivette will be departing.
The Chief Justice noted that at this time there are 193 persons on remand for murder or murder-related charges – 2 of whom have been on remand from 2004 and 2005 respectively. He says that there are 47 persons on remand for murder from 2010, adding that this is unsatisfactory. Chief Justice Benjamin said it is his hope that there can be some adjustments done to the criminal process to make sure cases are dealt with more expeditiously.
The Chief Justice also went on to speak about the shortage in finance, as the allocated budget for the Judiciary for calendar year 2013/2014 is around 8 million dollars – which is 1.1 percent of the estimated recurrent expenditure of government.
Members of the Bar were asked to increase assistance to indigent defendants.
In his speech, the president of the Bar Association also spoke about the backlog of cases, some of which need to be expedited. There is a particular case of a mentally unstable man who has been on remand for over 10 years.
Courtenay says they have submitted to the courts an 18-point letter suggesting adjustments that can be made to ensure cases are dealt with in a timely manner.
Courtenay also spoke about the 71 extradition cases that still await decisions.
In news of changes in the court system’s human resources, Senior Counsel Antoinette Moore will officially be appointed to the Belmopan Magistrate’s Court on Friday.
The court meets four times a year in its criminal jurisdiction and sits almost year-round in its civil jurisdiction.