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High Court of Belize reopens after extensive renovations

HighlightsHigh Court of Belize reopens after extensive renovations

by Kristen Ku

BELIZE CITY, Mon. July 1, 2024

After nearly two years of extensive renovations, the High Court of Belize reopened its doors today with a grand ceremony in Belize City. Located on Treasury Lane, this historic building has seen numerous transformations throughout its existence.

The building’s story dates back to a devastating fire on August 17, 1918, which completely destroyed the former structure. It was subsequently rebuilt during the reign of King George V. Over the years, it has housed various significant offices, including the Premier’s office, the National Assembly, the Cabinet room, and the Ministry of Finance on its upper floors.

The lower floors contained a vault for currency notes in the Treasury Department and the offices of the Monetary Authority, which later became the Central Bank of Belize after the country gained independence.

Calamity struck again between October 31 and November 1, 1961, when Hurricane Hattie ravaged Belize, causing extensive damage and resulting in approximately 319 deaths. The building was not spared, and had to be repaired and rebuilt once more.

Subsequently, the country’s capital moved to Belmopan, but the building continued to serve vital functions. The upper portion housed the offices of the Chief Justice and other Supreme Court justices, while the lower portion continued to house the Treasury Department until around 2006, when it became the location of the Magistrate’s Court.

Another natural disaster struck on November 2, 2022, when Hurricane Lisa rendered the building unfit for occupation, leading to its temporary relocation.

“As we look back over the past year, we place on record our collective thanks to the government of Belize, for their unswerving support of the judiciary, and by extension court users and the people of Belize. In my view, this magnificent building is symbolic of the people of Belize’s confidence in the justice system, and we say a resounding thank you,” stated Chief Justice, Hon. Madam Louise Esther Blenman during her remarks at the ceremony.

She added, “The rebuilding of the damaged or destroyed building into this impressive structure underscored the government’s commitment to supporting access to justice. The substantial capital expenditure on this renovated building is a major and noteworthy milestone for Belize.”

The newly refurbished building now houses four courtrooms, judges’ chambers, a conference room, a mediation room, and offices to accommodate the positions created by the Senior Courts Act, such as master’s chambers. Additionally, there are robing rooms for lawyers and rooms for consultations between lawyers and their clients. The building is also equipped with a ramp to ensure accessibility for differently-abled individuals.

“It is no overstatement to say that the government spared no resources to ensure that the restoration and retrofitting of these court premises would be done at a first-class status,” stated the Prime Minister of Belize, Hon. John Briceño during his address. “With assistance from the Ministry of Infrastructure Development and Housing (MIDH), renovations on the entire buildings were conducted and completed.”

A total of BZD 2.91 million was invested in the renovation project, just under the budget of BZD 3 million. Additionally, according to MIDH’s Chief Engineer, Evondale Moody, 60% of the original exterior structure was preserved, while the interior, roof, and electrical systems were completely redone.

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