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Jan 18, 2017

A.G. Looks to Colleague Sylvestre to Erase Mandatory Minimum Sentences

On Monday the legal year opened with a new Attorney General – Michael Peyrefitte. He told the members of the judiciary that one of things he wants to do is a comprehensive review of the existing criminal laws which will focus on the appropriateness of the mandatory minimum sentences. Peyrefitte pointed out that one of the legal minds he will be tapping into for some assistance with the revision is criminal Attorney Anthony Sylvester. Today the media caught up with Sylvester to ask him what this revision will entail. Here’s how he explains what they hope to do:

 

Anthony Sylvester

Anthony Sylvester, Attorney

“One of the things the members of the bar, the criminal bar, is interested in and has been vigorously addressing is the fact that you have mandatory minimum sentences which really do create, in many instances, disproportionate sentences being passed on individuals. For instance, there is a matter which I am involved with presently before the Court of Appeal where an individual – he was convicted and sentenced to twelve years for carnal knowledge. He was fifteen years at the time and the female was thirteen years at the time – here it was that you have two high schoolers; he was in third form and she was in first form and this individual was convicted and he has been in prison serving a twelve year sentence since 2011. So, instances like that, those of us who practice at the criminal bar realize that these mandatory minimum sentences do create disproportionate and cruel sentences in certain instances and there needs to be a complete revision of the laws and the appropriateness of it.”

 

Reporter

“How long overdue would you say this revision is?”

 

Anthony Sylvester

“Well, I do believe it is because just recollecting for the past three or four years there has been different decisions emanating from the court both in Belize and as well other jurisdiction. Take for instance, you have this very famous and prominent case of Philip Zuniga et al; it was a case that went to the CCJ, where you had the Government had enacted an amendment to the Supreme Court Adjudication Act and passed the mandatory minimum sentence where excessive fines were to be imposed and that was to be struck down. And you have had as well a case with respect to the firearm amendment act where the mandatory minimum sentence has been struck down and as I said, there are other matters presently before the courts which address that. So, clearly, it is a live matter which address that, so clearly it is a live matter which continues to impact and affect persons who are charged and otherwise might be sentenced to a punishment- a term of imprisonment that may not be appropriate. In the instance, for instance, with the misuse of drugs where a person is caught with say sixty grams, that person is liable to be subject to be in prison for a term of three years; so these are things which, for those of us who practice at the criminal bar believe that should be looked at.”

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