BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Jan. 14, 2016–Apart from the laws on the books governing how minors should be treated in the criminal justice system, there are the Judges’ Rules, which set out specific ways in which police should conduct investigations involving minors in their custody. However, quite the opposite has been happening on a regular basis at police stations across the country, where minors are being routinely held for more than the constitutionally approved 48 hours.
Attorney Audrey Matura-Shepherd has written a letter to Superintendent of Police, Simeon Alvarez, the officer in charge of the Punta Gorda police formation, challenging what she asserts is the unlawful detention of a minor, 15, whom her law firm, Matura & Co. Ltd., is representing.
The letter is copied to Bart Jones, the police’s legal officer, and to Commissioner of Police Allen Whylie. We tried to reach both Jones and Whylie for their side of the story, but our attempts proved futile.
Late this evening, Amandala confirmed that the 15-year-old minor is still in police custody, but has not been charged with any offense. The minor, according to a police officer at the Punta Gorda police station, is being investigated for murder.
Matura-Shepherd’s letter states: “We are informed that the minor handed himself in to the Punta Gorda Police Station on Monday, January 11, 2016, at about 6:30 p.m. He was never read his constitutional rights and neither was an adult brought to the police station to represent his interest. Shortly thereafter, he was driven to Columbia Police Station and locked down.
“The following day, when he was taken back to the Punta Gorda police station, again he was interrogated by police and in violation of the Judges’ Rules, he was not allowed an adult or social worker to represent him.
“During that time he was threatened, slapped, punched and denied food.”
Matura-Shepherd complained that the minor was once again taken to the Colombia Village police station, and on the following day, when he was removed from Columbia Village, he was threatened with violence and again not allowed his constitutional rights.
“Finally, on Wednesday, January 13, 2016 at about 3:30 p.m., he was released from the Punta Gorda police station; however, when he had walked two blocks away from the police station he was re-detained and remains in custody to present,” Matura’s letter further claimed.
Matura-Shepherd said that if the minor continues to be detained without due process, she “will apply to the court for a writ of habeas corpus and expose the unprofessional conduct and unconstitutional treatment of a minor.”
Matura-Shepherd said her client, after serving 48 hours in police custody without being charged, is on the way to serving 72 hours without being charged and taken before a court.
Matura-Shepherd told Amandala that Alvarez did not want to accept her letter at first and she only saw him after waiting two hours.
Matura-Shepherd said Alvarez told her that after her client was released, police picked him up on the basis of new evidence.
“How come in ten minutes they already had new evidence? My question was, ‘If they had that new evidence, why not charge him?’” Matura-Shepherd pointed out.
“If it’s true that evidence exist how come another 24 hours later my client still has not been charged?” Matura-Shepherd went on to question.
“I was able to confirm that the social worker was never present for all the interrogation my client went through on Monday and Tuesday and part of Wednesday. It was only in the last hour before his release that a social worker was called to witness him being asked to tell them if he was involved in a murder,” Matura-Shepherd stated. “And he stood his ground and told them that he had no knowledge or involvement in any murder,” she said.