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In case of disputed Belama lot, Supreme Court injunction remains in effect

The injunction on construction upon a disputed lot in Belama, which Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin had granted last December to Bernadette Pickwood against the family of former Ministry of Natural Resources CEO Beverly Castillo, remains in effect, the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday.

Pickwood applied for the injunction to stop Maud Williams and Mervin Castillo, the mother and son of Beverly Castillo, from continuing construction on the lot at the corner of Chetumal and Albert Hoy Streets, after she learned that her lease had been canceled and the lot given to them.

Audrey Matura-Shepherd, the attorney for the Pickwood family, told reporters after she emerged from the hearing in the Chief Justice’s chamber that the injunction would remain.

“The Chief Justice doesn’t want the injunction to remain too long, so we are hoping for a quick trial”, Matura-Shepherd said.

“The essence of the injunction is that the third and fourth defendant (Williams and Castillo, Jr.) cannot go on the property and do anything on it while the injunction remains in effect,” Matura-Shepherd explained, adding “They cannot continue building until after the trial.”

She went on to state, “The government cannot go ahead and publish in the Gazette, which makes a lease final.”

Matura-Shepherd said she thinks that the Chief Justice is looking at an issue of fairness, as any judge should.

“It doesn’t mean that we know how the ruling will go. We want it to be a fair trial, so we don’t have much more to say. The trial will be in open court, so the evidence will come out,” Matura-Shepherd said.

The parties are due to return to court on February 3.

Matura-Shepherd said that there are provisions in law for a speedy trial for matters that require urgent attention. “It goes through the process very immediate, and we had to file our claim already, if we wanted to go to court and continue the injunction,” she explained.

“We have been able to ascertain through the evidence that a title has been issued to the Castillos”, Matura-Shepherd additionally brought to light, but “we have not been able to ascertain this through the official channel at the Lands Department,” she went on to note.

“Shockingly, the title to the lot was issued on December 5, 2013,” she said.

Matura-Shepherd said that around December 20, she had called the Lands Department, but was told that there was no title for the lot in question in the department’s system. She said that she became aware that the Castillos had secured title for the lot through a report in the media.

Since dealing with the Pickwood land issue, Matura-Shepherd has concluded that we have a rather unjust land system that is not working for a lot of people. And a lot of Belizeans don’t have the money to go to court to fight their case.

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