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Oct 6, 2016

Chief Justice Drops Claim over Sarstoon S.I.

Today, Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin struck out the constitutional challenge brought by the People’s United Party of the Sarstoon Law. The statutory instrument, which was passed by the Government, prohibited Belizeans from going into the Sarstoon River under the Public Safety Act, and was essentially a measure to stop expeditions organized by the Belize Territorial Volunteers. The effect of that SI expired months ago, at the end of May. The P.U.P. went to court because it believed that the SI was bad and unlawful. Well today, CJ Benjamin struck out the case since it had become an academic exercise. Attorney for the P.U.P., Andrew Marshalleck explains.

 

Andrew Marshalleck, Attorney for P.U.P.

“The claim has been struck; there will be no consideration of it on the merits so there will be no decision as to whether or not the circumstances—aggression by a foreign state—constitutes civil commotion so that the government can pass regulations restricting freedom of movement in terms that it did. Clearly the court didn’t consider it important enough to determine and didn’t think that it was very likely that it would reoccur so as to merit a reconsideration of the issue.”

 

Andrew Marshalleck

Reporter

“He said the court does not make academic determination. Was the P.U.P. foolhardy to have brought it in the first place, knowing the extremely tight window?”

 

Andrew Marshalleck

“No, what it is, is there is no absolutely rule that the court does not entertain academic matters; there is a discretion to entertain it and what we said is that this matter was of sufficient importance for the court to proceed notwithstanding that it was academic. There is a difference. So there is no absolute rule that once it was academic and it is academic because the regulation itself has been revoked; there is no continuing breach of any constitutional right. But there was still the issue of whether or not while the statutory instrument was enforced—whether it breached constitutional rights to freedom of movement. The difficulty is that you are talking about twenty-odd days and no real harm being caused to anybody so that in a sense, in a very real way, it was academic. But we thought and we thought from the beginning that the issue was one of sufficient importance that warranted a decision from the court. Clearly the court didn’t think that it ought to use judicial time to do this; that it had a sufficient level of importance. And I do not know that the court was not justified in so finding.”

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