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Jun 30, 2000

DPP to hold legal seminar

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The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has been working round the clock handling legal cases and making final preparations for a seminar entitled, “Prosecution – The Way Forward.” The meeting is scheduled for July Fourth and will bring together Belizean prosecutors, magistrates, criminal lawyers and police investigators as well as two international lawyers, namely Charles Leacock, Barbados’ DPP and Nick Cowdery, the DPP of New South Wales in Australia. According to Rory Field, Belize’s DPP, the seminar is aimed at improving the way cases are prosecuted in Belize. Field says he is hoping to establish a link with legal establishments in other countries such as Australia, which will help to attract the kind of personnel needed in Belize.

Rory Field, DPP, Belize

“I’d like to hope that we can have direct assistance perhaps even having an Australian lawyer. A senior prosecutor succumbed over here would be ideal to help with some ideas and it would be nice if we could get some two way street where perhaps Belizean prosecutors could go over to New South Wales for weeks or a month to train in the DPP’s office there. Practical assistance like training, information technology, help with our libraries. I am not so concern, I am a little concern with the library here in Belize City, but I am extremely concerned about the resources we have outside of Belize like in the Magistrates Court, where we don’t have many law books at all. These are some of the areas where we can have very practical assistance if we are linked to richer partners.”

Jacqueline Woods

“Let’s look at the prosecution branch. The last time I was in this office, the former DPP Adolph Lucas said that there was a problem of understaffing and the backlog of cases. Today how does the situation stands?”

Rory Fields

“Well since I arrived here there has been a problem with understaffing it’s improved a little a month ago when we recruited someone by the name of Rowan Phillip from Grenada. We are in the process of recruiting another lawyer from Trinidad and Tobago with that recruit I think we will somewhat turn the corner because at the moment we have been concentrating on doing a professional job in the Supreme Court, but we haven’t had the staff to look at other issues. Also, I haven’t had the staff to be able to send, release a member of staff away for training or something of that sort. I haven’t had the staff to send staff as much as I would like down to the Magistrate Court to help train people on the job there. I also haven’t had the staff to send people out to the Magistrate Courts in the region. So as soon as one hits a critical mass of enough people that will change and I will be able to start things proactively.”

“There is a real shortage of qualified lawyers in Belize itself who want to come and join this office because the fact is that it doesn’t pay as much as work in private practice. And quite understandably any lawyer apart from a fairly junior lawyer will want to be in private practice and that has been a problem, but it’s a problem that everybody is aware of and we are addressing.”

Charles Leacock will be coming in from New York where he has been working at the United Nations, setting up an International Criminal Code. Nick Cowdery is the president of the International Association of Prosecutors and he is also the Co-Chairman of the International Bar Association of the Human Rights Commission. The Prosecution’s seminar will be held at the Radisson Fort George Hotel.

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