Belize - Belize News - - Great Belize Productions - Belize Breaking News
Home » Miscellaneous, People & Places » New Year Begins for Supreme Court
Jan 8, 2018

New Year Begins for Supreme Court

An ecumenical church service gave way to the traditional opening of the Supreme Court this morning. Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin was joined by other judges, magistrates, attorneys and others in the legal fraternity, as well as spectators, as he inspected the guard of honor that is mounted to mark the solemnity of the occasion in the heart of the City. The CJ gave a report of last year’s legal calendar, touching on a need for more lawyers to join the bench in the magistracy, as well as additional resources to strengthen the work of the judiciary.   After a presentation from the President of the Bar Association of Belize, it was left to the Attorney General to welcome new judge, Marilyn Williams. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The Supreme Court of Belize is the highest judicial office in the land, maintaining legal authority over civil and criminal matters, as well as appeals from the magistracy.  On the second Monday at the beginning of each calendar year, dozens of attorneys and others within the court system come together with jurists to celebrate a new annual schedule.  This morning was no different, save for a pale turnout from members of the bar.  Attendance notwithstanding, the customary display of pageantry took center stage on Regent Street as the brief procession made its way from Wesley Methodist Church to the steps of the grand old edifice facing Battlefield Park.


Following an inspection of the guard of honor, the audience moved to the chamber of the presiding judge where a series of speeches were delivered.  The first address was given by Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin, touching on the number of civil and criminal matters dispensed with in 2017.


Kenneth Benjamin

Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin, Supreme Court of Belize

“In 2017, a total of eight hundred and thirty-eight civil claims, inclusive of petitions for bail, were filed.  Seven hundred and eleven claims were disposed of, three hundred and sixty-four divorce petitions were filed and two hundred and ninety-two decrees were granted.  Criminal division: The disposal of cases in the criminal division was severely hampered by the absence of one judge from the central district.  Throughout 2017 the list for that court remained at one hundred and thirty-one cases; however, with the engagement of two additional judges, it’s expected that the rate of disposal will be significantly increased.  The proposed sentencing guidelines are in the final stages of completion.  Accordingly, the basis for sentence indications will be provided to assist in encouraging early guilty pleas.”


While the Chief Justice reviewed the achievements of the judiciary over the past year, he stopped short of discussing the accumulation of pending cases on his desk.  Instead, he focused on the number of suits that were dispensed with, as well as the number of inmates on pretrial detention.


Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin

“According to statistics received from the Kolbe Foundation, four hundred and twenty-four persons are awaiting trial, five persons are awaiting decisions, two persons are awaiting sentence and one person is detained pending extradition.  Of the two hundred and thirty accused persons awaiting trial in the Supreme Court, one hundred and fifty-six or sixty-eight point two-six percent have been in custody for over two years.  As early iterated, the task of the two additional judges will be to manage and address the cases of those persons whose time on remand has been lengthy.”


Those two judges include newly appointed Justice Marilyn Williams who was sworn in on Friday.  Speaking on behalf of the legal fraternity, President of the Bar Association of Belize, Priscilla Banner, subtly underpinned its position where the court system is concerned.


Priscilla Banner

Priscilla Banner, President, Bar Association of Belize

“The bar’s message to the judiciary is that we are each other’s keepers.  We are the guardians of each other’s mandate.  What does it mean when we say that we are each other’s keepers?  It means that just as we expect the judiciary to ensure that attorneys at all times do what is required of them, whether through guidance in court or guidance out of court, through discipline in the JLC, so too it is expected that we as a attorneys will, whenever it is necessary, do what is expected of us if we perceive a threat to the integrity and the efficiency of the legal system.  The significance of the legal system cannot be overstated, the legal system affects every part of our society.”


For his part, Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte moved the adjournment by first speaking on the appointment of Justice Williams to the Supreme Court bench.


Michael Peyrefitte

Michael Peyrefitte, Attorney General

“I must start from the outset by congratulating and thanking Justice Marilyn Williams for taking up the appointment as a judge of the Supreme Court and for being willing to leave her illustrious private practice, My Lord, to offer herself up for service to the judiciary and the country.  I know Justice Williams both personally and professionally and I can boldly say My Lord, that Justice Williams is the embodiment of quality in all respects.”


Elsewhere, the AG spoke on significant progress made in respect of the Toledo Land Rights Commission which falls under his ministry.


Michael Peyrefitte

“There was the Maya Land Rights Commission under the directorship of Ms. Alamilla in which we worked towards ensuring that the Mayas get the rights that they deserve, fully within the constitution in respect of the rights of any other citizen in Belize.  Under the ministry as well My Lord, we swore in on September sixteenth, 2017, some seventy-eight alcaldes and deputy alcaldes.  This is a landmark occasion in Belize because for the first time the alcaldes were sworn in by the Attorney General.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

Be Sociable, Share!

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

Advertise Here

Leave a Reply