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Feb 21, 2019

PM Barrow says Supreme Court Justice Dismissive of Crown Counsels

Prime Minister Dean Barrow hosted the 2019 Prime Minister Business Forum today. About three hundred guests from the private sector were at the Civic Centre when the PM used the platform to take unprecedented shots at the judiciary and in particular, a Supreme Court Justice. During his keynote address, PM Barrow touched on central government recording a primary balance of not less than two point two percent. He said that this was despite the Belize Bank’s tax offset which, he said, deprived the treasury of approximately fourteen point one million dollars. Barrow announced that the government will challenge the decision by Justice Courtenay Abel. The Bank had asked the Commissioner of Income Tax to deduct its tax from the U.H.S. debt owed by G.O.B.  The Commissioner refused, and Justice Abel ruled on January twenty-third that the Commissioner’s refusal is unreasonable and disproportionate and therefore unlawful. Barrow believes the bench appeared not just heedless of, but downright rude to, the crown and its law officers. Barrow went on a rant against the bench, saying that crown counsels have been complaining loud and clear that the bench has been treating them slightingly and dismissively. He addressed the matter at the forum because he believes that he needed to speak out against such behavior by a sitting judge. PM Barrow also pointed out that G.O.B. has lost more than ninety percent of its cases before this judge.

 

Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“The judicial decision that enabled this is absolutely going to be challenged by GOB, especially since it came in circumstances where the Bench appeared not just heedless of, but downright rude to, the Crown and its law officers. Justice is not a cloistered virtue and when there is what appears to be unremitting judicial hostility to litigants, when this goes beyond mere impatient descends into downright incivility, absolutely upsetting the equilibrium of especially young crown council and lawyers who spend a world of time preparing their arguments only to be dismissed in the most slighting manner, I will use my bully pulpit to speak out against that. And I will tell you, I am not just doing it today. We have officially made a complaint about that type of behavior. A particular judge, we gone over the records and a part from the fact that our crown counsel and law officers have complained loud and long about the way they are treated. We also see that perhaps ninety-five percent, maybe even ninety-nine percent, result in a loss for the Government. It can’t, well let me be very, very careful about what I say. There may be all sorts of reasons for that, for the record which I won’t go into but certainly it is startling. It is a very striking statistic. But it really is that our law officers complain about the way they are treated. When you think in terms of fairly young attorneys at law who are just getting their feet wet, who are anxious to make a good start in the profession, who work hard, who do a great deal of research and pain staking preparation and when they come back they say that they’ve been treated slightingly, they have been handled dismissively, they as it were broken spirited. I don’t deal with them directly. I get this from the Attorney general. When that happens, and it happens over and over and over again, in my view, there is time when those who ultimately have responsibility for those law officers and all servants or officers of the Government of Belize need to speak out.  This has reached epic proportions in terms of the reports that have been given to me and to the cabinet by the Attorney General. Justice is a not a cloistered virtue. You can’t, you can’t be a judge and think that you are immune from criticism if you behave in a way that deserves criticism. As long as we are not talking about the question about the judge’s integrity and I have made plain and I will repeat, that is not what is the issue.”

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