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Jan 15, 2016

….Discussions Center on Enhanced Provision of Justice

Ann Marie Smith

Then there is the move to install a drug treatment court which deals with issues of addiction. Several CARICOM countries already have theirs in place. Though lagging behind, Belize is working toward the establishment of one. In this court, a team of professionals from the Prosecution Unit, the Mental Health Unit, the National Drug Abuse Control Council headed by presiding magistrates will assess and determine whether perpetrators are addicts. The draft legislation includes offenses such as assault and harm, but does not contemplate drug trafficking.

 

Ann Marie Smith, Chief Magistrate

“The drug treatment court is not really a new concept; Trinidad and Tobago has a drug treatment court; Jamaica has had one for about ten years; Barbados recently rolled out there’s and the Bahamas is looking into having theirs too. Belize is on the path; we had a few hiccups because our memorandum of understanding took a bit of time to get signed. In fact, we started before Barbados, but Barbados kinda overtook us so they have started theirs. The Drug Treatment Court is a court that deals with addiction. It is a problem-solving court and is very different from the usual court that you have in that the judge or the magistrate is going to look at helping the person who comes to court because he or she has committed a crime because he or she is addicted to drugs or alcohol. So for example you might have somebody who has broken some windows to get into somebody’s house to steal, but when you look at the underlying reason why he did that it is because he is addicted to crack cocaine. So we are not going to punish him for that; we are going to deal with his addiction and get him or her clean. And then he can become an active and good member of society. So that is the whole thinking behind it. Yes, you are going to have people who are going to try and beat the system but remember what they said inside, the person has to plead guilty first to the offense and it has to be voluntary; we can’t force people to go into drug treatment court.”

 

Duane Moody

“So that means that the person would have a record?”

 

Ann Marie Smith

“No, what happens the person pleads guilty. So let’s say for example, you beat up your wife and you come to court and say I beat her because I was drunk and I have an alcohol problem. You have to plead guilty to the assault or the harm and then you go through the drug system court system and at the end you graduate. However, if you go through the system and you decide that you don’t want to do it anymore or that you are not complying to the rules, you are brought back to the regular court and you are tried for the assault and you are tried as to whether you are guilty or not guilty at the end of the trial.”

 

The Organization of the American States will assist with training and technical assistance to sensitize the magistrates on the drug treatment court.

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