Photo: High Court of Belize
by Kristen Ku
BELIZE CITY, Mon. Nov. 27, 2023
Reports of a countrywide sickout among prosecutors and magistrates across Belize, which allegedly caused a halt in High Court proceedings today, have been refuted by the Government of Belize in a recent press release.
Sources alleged that Crown Counsels from the Attorney General’s Ministry, as well as some personnel from Legal Aid and other government departments, and some magistrates called in sick in response to unresolved issues, including security risks, poor working conditions, and a long-standing request for a 17% remuneration adjustment.
This action supposedly led to a temporary pause in the high court’s operations on November 27.
In a press release issued today, the Government of Belize dismissed these allegations as “irresponsible misinformation.” The statement read, “The Attorney General’s Ministry has clarified that crown counsels at the ministry are in full complement today, but for three officers who are on approved vacation leave. Additionally, it is confirmed that only one magistrate is on sick leave.”
It adds, “Accordingly, the administration of justice has not been halted, and the work of the government at the Attorney General’s Ministry continues unaffected.”
The release further criticized the reports as an exaggeration, and stressed that the government values its legal and judicial officers, working to address their concerns.
Notably, there had been a 2-day sickout earlier in the year, during which 45% of the Crown Counsels in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) were absent.
That event coincided with the return of High Court judges from their August recess, creating a strain on the Director of Public Prosecution’s office and leading to some case adjournments.
During that period, the prosecutors had expressed their frustrations over pay disparities and unfulfilled promises of a salary raise. A letter to Attorney General Anthony Sylvestre, Jr. highlighted their grievances, particularly comparing their salaries with those of a foreign judicial legal assistant and recalling failed discussions about pay scale reformation and a 17% salary increase.