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Unfinished social inquiry report delays sentencing for convicted murderer

All prisoners serving life sentences at the Belize Central Prison will eventually be resentenced to a fixed-term sentence in accordance with revisions to the law

BELIZE CITY, Wed. Nov. 21, 2018– On September 12, Supreme Court Justice Adolph Lucas, in a trial by judge sitting without jury, found Ernest “Dangalang” Thurton, Jr., 25, guilty of the double murder of Robert Young, 41, and Frank James, 35. Young and James were gunned down at the dockyard on Belize City’s North Front Street on the night of October 25, 2012.

Justice Lucas had scheduled today, Wednesday, as the sentencing date for Thurton. When the court convened, however, Justice Lucas announced that he had not yet received the social inquiry report for Thurton.

Since the Human Development Department has not yet completed its social inquiry report on the convicted man, the sentencing could not take place and had to be pushed back to December 11.

Court records indicate that the report was supposed to have been completed from October 4.

Today, Justice Lucas observed that, “the people who were given life in prison sentences need to be resentenced and the people who are doing the social inquiry report are engaged in that also.”

The change in the law came about when the Belize Court of Appeal ruled that the life in prison sentence for murder without parole is unconstitutional. That ruling was upheld by the Caribbean Court of Justice.

Prior to this change in the law, whenever a person was convicted of murder, the sentence was an automatic life-in-prison sentence without any possibility of being released on parole.

The law as it presently stands in relation to capital offences, requires that a convicted person be sentenced to a fixed term in prison.

Last Friday, in his sentencing of the two men convicted of the murder of attorney Richard Stuart and his wife, Maria Stuart, Supreme Court Justice Colin Williams quoted the law relating to fixed-date sentences. Criminal Code (Amendment) Act No. 22 of 2017 states: “Where a court sentences a person to imprisonment for life… the court shall specify a minimum term, which the offender shall serve before he can become eligible to be released on parole in accordance with the statutory provisions for parole.”

Justice Williams also referenced the Caribbean Court of Justice case of Gregory August and Alwin Gabb v The Queen [2018], which sets out the state of the law on sentencing in capital cases.

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