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PM Barrow blasts Supreme Court Justice Courtenay Abel

GeneralPM Barrow blasts Supreme Court Justice Courtenay Abel

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Feb. 25, 2019– The Supreme Court of Belize and its justices are creations of the Belize Constitution and function as part of the judiciary, one of the three branches of government. The office of the Prime Minister, likewise, is also a creation of the Constitution and functions as the executive branch of government, of which the prime minister is its head.

Thirdly, there is the legislative branch, which has responsibility for making the laws for the good governance of Belize.

The three branches of government, however — the Executive, Legislative and the Judiciary, were intended to be separate under what is known as the doctrine of the separation of powers in constitutional law, because they act as a check and balance against each other.

Last Thursday, following his Business Forum, Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Dean O. Barrow let loose a blistering attack on the integrity of the judicial system. PM Barrow told the media that he had written to the Chief Justice, complaining about the Supreme Court Justice, Courtenay Abel, who has made a number of rulings against the Government of Belize that PM Barrow questions.

PM Barrow told the media, “Perhaps 95%, maybe even 99% of the government cases before that particular judge result in a loss for the government.”

Last month, Justice Abel issued a judgment on the Belize Bank/UHS matter and ruled that the bank can withhold the payment of its taxes against the over 90 million dollars the Caribbean Court of Justice had awarded it that the government had refused to pay, and which parliament voted against authorizing, even though the bill was introduced by the Prime Minister.

PM Barrow lamented that the judgment issued by Justice Abel has cost the government around 14 million dollars in taxes it could have collected, and it plans to appeal the decision.

PM Barrow also took the judge to task for what he termed “the slighting” of Crown Counsels in his courtroom.

“It cannot be right for a judge to treat, not just representatives of the Crown or the government, any representatives of litigants before him in the fashion that our people complain of,” PM Barrow said.

PM Barrow said, “coming back to this particular judge, not too long before the Belize Bank matter, there was a case in front of Madam Justice Arana, where somebody was seeking compensation for land acquired by government. I think our valuer suggested that the amount payable was $5-6 million. Out of it the judge awarded 20-22 million.”

“Now, of course we are not happy with that decision and that’s a decision that we are going to appeal, but not a soul can complain about the attitude of the judge, the demeanor of the judge, the even-handedness of the judge in terms of treating the litigants or counsel for the parties appearing before her.

“So it’s not a question of the merits of the decision. That’s for an appeal …” PM Barrow explained.

The Prime Minister’s attack on Justice Abel did not escape the Opposition People’s United Party, which issued a press release today condemning the Prime Minister’s attack on a member of the judiciary.

“Prime Minister Dean Barrow took the ‘bully pulpit’ of last week’s Business Forum to launch a scandalous and contemptible attack against a sitting Justice of the Supreme Court. The People’s United Party regards the Prime Minister’s assault on Justice Abel as deliberately designed to interfere with cases actually before the Judge, to intimidate the wider Judiciary, to scandalize the Court and ultimately, undermine the rule of law,” the PUP press release said.

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