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Mar 1, 2018

A.G. to spell out position on why profiling is wrong

Michael Peyrefitte

The open debate on the taking of photographs by officers conducting stop and search exercises continue in the public domain, as well as within government.  The issue has been raised on several occasions with senior members of the Belize Police Department and, despite a roundabout response; the matter has not been addressed formally. That was until last Tuesday when it was discussed in Cabinet. There is a strong argument being put forward that not only is picture-taking beyond the remit of Section Nineteen of the Police Act illegal, it is also viewed as profiling. The Attorney General is of that firmly held belief and is in the process of putting together a position paper detailing and analyzing the existing situation.


Michael Peyrefitte, Attorney General

“Any police officer, if he believes that a person is guilty of a crime, about to commit a crime, has illegal drugs or weapons on his person, that policeman with that reasonable belief can stop and search an individual.  Now, a policeman cannot say, well I just noh like Daniel or I just noh like Isani, mek I search ahn.  That is illegal to do and no one could ever support that.  The law is very clear as two when a person’s picture can be taken by the police.  If the police choose to charge a person with an offence, at the point the person’s photograph could be taken and the fingerprints are to be taken.  If that person is eventually found not guilty of that accusation then the fingerprints and the photograph are to be destroyed.  Sometimes from when I look at the news, I am very distraught to see that the news would display photographs of people who have been charged and those photographs just happen to be their mug shots or the photographs taken by the police.  Those photographs should never be made public before that person is found guilty.  But, that is the situation.  That is the law and I am indeed going to prepare a formal paper for Cabinet with the full details and analysis of that situation and all the laws that go with it because, let me say this and like I said, it’s illegal for a police officer to just randomly search anybody for no reason and to take their picture for no reason.”

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