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CCJ issues reasons for ordering Hillaire Sears’ release

GeneralCCJ issues reasons for ordering Hillaire Sears’ release

The Court found that Sears’ constitutional rights had been breached by Belize’s parole board.

by Khaila Gentle

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad & Tobago, Mon. Aug. 8, 2022

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on Friday issued its reasons for quashing the decision of Belize’s upper courts to revoke the parole of Hillaire Sears. Sears, who was set to serve 25 years in prison for a charge of manslaughter (reduced from murder after an appeal) was granted parole in December 2012 after serving ten years. His parole was revoked, however, in April 2014, when he was detained on the suspicion that he had violated one of his parole conditions by using cannabis.

Sears was never granted the chance to plead his case and was detained for fifty-five days before the Parole Board informed him—after tests done on a urine sample confirmed his use of cannabis—that his parole had been revoked.

In 2018, Sears brought a case against the Board, claiming that his detention and the revocation of his parole were unlawful and that his constitutional rights had been violated. The Supreme Court dismissed his claim and the Court of Appeal indicated agreement with that decision.

The Supreme Court’s argument was that Sears had used the wrong procedure in bringing his claim to court—that it was to be brought as a judicial review application, rather than a breach of constitutional rights claim. The CCJ, however, disagreed.

“Mr. Sears had alleged the arbitrary use of state power, incarceration without legal authority, and the revocation of his parole without due process. These were genuine claims of infringements of his fundamental rights,” said the CCJ.

According to the CCJ, when Sears was re-incarcerated on April 3, 2014, he was not afforded any of the constitutional safeguards that the Belize Central Prison has in place for parolees suspected of having breached the conditions of their parole.

“The Court was, therefore, satisfied that Mr. Sears’ arrest and detention on 3 April 2014 was arbitrary, without any legal authority and without due process. Accordingly, he was deprived of his fundamental right to personal liberty for those 55 days from 3 April until 28 May 2014, when the Parole Board revoked his parole,” the. CCJ stated.

The CCJ also noted that the Parole Board’s decision breached Sears’ constitutional rights to personal liberty and equal protection of the law, as he was not afforded the opportunity to make “written or oral representations” to the Board.

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