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Apr 20, 2015

CCJ Sessions Commence in Belize, Gregory August Applies for Special Leave

The Caribbean Court of Justice this morning commenced hearings for the first time in Belize, since its establishment in 2001. There are currently three other members, Barbados, Guyana and Dominica, is its newest member. And while the CCJ is headquartered in Trinidad, it is not the final court for that country. On its historic sitting, which will continue through Thursday, the CCJ will be dealing with cases from Guyana as well as Belize.  As it relates to the local cases, the next few days shall continue to see a number of firsts, including a criminal appeal to the CCJ, as well as a pending Maya Land Rights case, which is scheduled for Wednesday.  Today, convicted murderer, twenty-seven-year-old Gregory August, appeared before a bench of judges led by President Dennis Byron.  Represented by Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay, an application for special leave was made on August’s behalf to allow for a challenge of his sentence.  In November 2012, August was found guilty of the stabbing death of seventy-three-year-old Alvin Robinson inside his home in the Western Paradise community and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. August would subsequently go before the Court of Appeal where the decision to condemn him was never challenged. When the CCJ resumed the hearing at ten-thirty this morning, President Byron informed that the application had been granted and that case management for the matter to proceed is set for Tuesday morning.  Following the session, we spoke with attorney Eamon Courtenay who, on behalf of the president of the Bar Association of Belize, welcomed the CCJ Belize’s jurisdiction.


Eamon Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney for Gregory August

“As you know, the Court of Appeal is having a historic sitting, it’s the first time they are sitting in Belize as our final court.  And so, on behalf of the president and members of the bar, I was asked to welcome them and so we did that.  In so far as the case is concerned, I am representing Mr. Gregory August who was sentenced to life imprisonment on the basis of a conviction of murder.  Life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.  So we had applied to the CCJ for permission to appeal to the CCJ and to challenge the sentence.  One of the grounds that we had put in our notice in the application was that it is unconstitutional to sentence somebody to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.  When we went into court to start making the application the court immediately said to me, “Mr. Courtenay, we are concerned about Section Seven of the Constitution [of Belize].  That is that this man has been sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.”  And so they felt that that was a matter that the Court of Appeal should consider because when the Court of Appeal was brought, that was not before the Court of Appeal.  So they are saying that the Court of Appeal should look at that.  So what they did was to grant special leave for him to challenge his conviction.  Two, send the matter back to the Court of Appeal to deal with the question of sentence and the question of a good character direction and that the matter must be heard as quickly as possible.”

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