We have been informed of the charge read against the accused on the matter of the vicious beating of 22-year-old Galen student, Kevin Brown. The three accused were brought to court to face a single charge of HARM. Based on what this ordinary citizen has read about this charge, if any of them, or all, is/are found guilty, he or they is/are liable to spend one year in prison.
The Substantive Laws of Belize, Revised Edition 2000, describes HARM as bodily hurt, disease or disorder, whether permanent or temporary. There are different kinds of HARM. There is GRIEVOUS HARM, which amounts to injuries that can be classified as maim, dangerous harm, or lead to permanent physical/health problems or disfigurement; DANGEROUS HARM, which is harm that endangers life; MAIM, which is the destruction or permanent disabling of any limb or organ; and WOUND, which has to do with injuries that puncture or cut through the skin and muscles.
The more severe the degree of HARM, the more severe is the penalty.The person who intentionally and unlawfully causes HARM to a person shall be liable to imprisonment for one year; a person who WOUNDS another shall be liable to imprisonment for two years; a person who causes GRIEVOUS HARM is liable for imprisonment for five years; a person who MAIMS or causes DANGEROUS HARM to another is liable to imprisonment for twenty years.
Section 83 says that every person who uses a sword, dagger…deadly or destructive means or instrument, to hurt someone else, shall (a) if he does so with intent unlawfully to cause harm to a person, be liable to imprisonment for five years; or (b) if he does so with intent unlawfully to wound or cause grievous harm to a person, be liable to imprisonment for ten years; or (c) if he does so with intent to maim or to cause dangerous harm to a person, be liable to imprisonment for twenty years.
Have the authorities of Belize determined that hitting someone in the head (in this case it is reported that a fire extinguisher was used) is one of the least dangerous forms of harm? Is hitting someone in the head with a bat, a paddle, a 2×4, a fire extinguisher, mere HARM in Belize? Is there something about the charge filed in this case that regular Belizeans can’t understand?
In every country that licenses motorcycles to travel on the highways, it is mandatory that a helmet is worn by the driver. Bicyclists wear helmets. It is mandatory for them to do so in many countries. People who work in places where there are heavy objects overhead, wear helmets. Baseball and softball players wear helmets when they step into the batter’s box. The greatest fear in the sport of boxing is the boxer who is out before he hits the canvas. It is a terrible thing when a boxer’s head hits the canvas full force. But in Belize you can hit someone in the head with a fire extinguisher and the charge is, mere HARM.
Police Corporal 621 Wilbert Lawton Gentle, fondly known to his family and close friends as “Sigidee”, passed from this earth in the early hours of June 4, 1976. On New Year’s Eve, 1975/76, Corporal Gentle was on duty at a dance in Benque Viejo Town and the proprietor of the establishment where he was working asked him to remove a group of men who were on the premises but hadn’t paid the entrance fee.
The men did not go quietly. They attacked Corporal Gentle, wounding him in the head. Corporal Gentle’s family was told by the authorities that he fell down the stairs at the dance hall. But some young women who were at the dance told his family that they lied. They said they saw one of the men hit PC Gentle in the head with a Coke bottle.
Corporal Gentle did not press charges. He had a medical form to get X-rays at the hospital, but he put that off. He recovered from his head wound, outwardly. On May 24, 1976, his girlfriend told his family that he said he was having severe headaches, and that he was feeling bad. In June Corporal Gentle started furlough and went to spend a couple weeks at his parents’ house in Belize City. His mother heard him groaning about 5:00 the morning of June 4 and she went to his room to see what was troubling him. She couldn’t wake him up so she called two female neighbours to come over and help her. The women told Mrs. Gentle that her son was dead.
The post-mortem said that Police Corporal 621 Gentle died from a blood clot, an aneurysm in his brain. He was otherwise in perfect physical condition.
There are no love taps to a person’s head; no tender cuts or punctures to the body. Circumstances may mitigate what one has done, even exonerate one, but they don’t change the fact that one tried to kill. That fact is unalterable.
It is reported that Kevin Brown was savagely beaten, kicked and punched, and he was hit in the head with a fire extinguisher, a blow which rendered him unconscious. It is a fact that he was out cold, had to be administered CPR. Brown will most likely need specialist attention, maybe for the rest of his life. Will he be able to afford it? Does our state care? We have seen how quickly Belizeans who “make it,” political leaders in particular, forget how the rest of us live.
Without eyewitness testimony, who knows what happened that day in San Pedro? Did Mr. Brown provoke his attackers? Did he hit his attackers? Was there something about Mr. Brown that made his attackers fear for their lives? Did Mr. Brown trip and hurt his head on the fire extinguisher, or something? If that is the case, the wheels of justice in this country will find the accused to be not guilty.
Police investigations determined that the young man was the victim of a crime. The question is about the charge. Why HARM? Does our Prosecution Branch feel they have a better chance of a guilty verdict if they bring the charge with the least penalty? If they do, why do they feel this way? Does the doctor who examined Brown, feel that a head wound is a minor injury?