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Jan 3, 2011

Draconian measures in amendments to Crime Control Act?

New amendments to the Crime Control and Criminal Justice Act have now come into effect. The amendments were passed in the House and Senate last December as a way to clamp down on crime and violence. The act has gone through several changes and numerous of the latest amendments, gazetted on December eighteenth, are disquieting and have far reaching implications that can have the effect of infringing on the rights of citizens. For example, it allows a police officer to, without a warrant, arrest and remand any person who he deems has breached conditions of bail.  Two attorneys have expressed serious concerns about the new amendments. Attorneys Dickie Bradley and Anthony Sylvestre sat with News Five Marion Ali to discuss the new law.

Marion Ali, Reporting

Most killings and robberies are carried out with the use of firearms and the government’s attempts to address the problem have come in the form of amendments to the Crime Control and Criminal Justice Act.  One such new amendment has raised serious concerns for two attorneys, Dickie Bradley and Anthony Sylvestre, who say that the Act is now so draconian, that it infringes on even the rights of law-abiding citizens, for owning things like flare guns, used at sea to give off distress signals, and bullet-proof vests.

Dickie Bradley, Attorney

dickie bradley

“The amendment to the Crime Control Act makes a flare gun a prohibited material which prevents a magistrate from giving a person bail if they are charged for having possession of that flare gun, and if you are found guilty of having a flare gun you will mandatorily serve a minimum period for what is prescribed for having a prohibited firearm, which would be about three years or so, for a flare gun you know.  Now I come from a long line of people who live out at sea.  I’m always on boat, always di bruk down and what not.  So, I’m very concerned over that.  It gets worse.  An amendment to the Crime Control Act says that any person who has what you call a bullet proof vest, any kind of material that you put over your body, you are in possession of a prohibited material.”

The penalty for carrying or wearing a bulletproof vest is similar to that of firearm offenses.  Both attorneys explained why the law not only inhibits criminals but also law-abiding citizens.

Anthony Sylvestre, Attorney

“We’re here in the studios of Channel 5.  What the amendment to the firearm provided for is that look, if a bullet or a firearm is found on the premises of say Channel 5, all those persons who are on the premises at that time, they would be deemed to be in possession, which means that everybody will be arrested and will be denied bail.”

Dickie Bradley

“What if somebody out of malice says that they had sex with mi lee daughter and mi daughter wah give wah statement gainst ah. You are carted off to prison for three months.  You can be one hundred percent innocent; you’re going to go to jail.  And if yohnoh have money fi wah lawyer yohwah stay dah jail.”

Marion Ali

anthony sylvestre

“But if you’re proven innocent at the end of the trial can you the “victim” now or the defendant sue the government?  Can you take some kind of action?”

Anthony Sylvestre

“Well you can theoretically but one, a person should only be charged for an offense when there’s reasonable cause and that has to be based on something.”

While Bradley feels that it is important to crack down on criminals, he says the law has to also be balanced off against the liberties of citizens.

Dickie Bradley

“You want to deal with men who are out there and who are carrying illegal firearms, who have no hesitation in shooting down other citizens in the course of a robbery or some beef as they call it, but at the same time you can’t be indifferent to the fact that innocent people are being grabbed up and taken to prison, and they are being forced to find money, di pawn out thing and di do all kinda thing to obtain the services of attorneys. Students who are in the vehicle and their dad left a firearm in the glove compartment or something.  Yoh wah cart off everybody to prison?   What is happening is that we are wanting to give the impression that yoh di fight crime by locking people before they even have a trial, by trying to punish them before they even have a trial.”

Bradley says the amendments that have taken effect over the past two years have gotten not only his attention, but that of even other notable attorneys.

Dickie Bradley

“My colleague, Anthony Sylvestre and myself and other attorneys, including at one time the current Attorney General, Hon. Bernard Quinten Augustus Pitts, including a man who has practiced at the Bar for a long time, Hubert Elrington, and several other attorneys, have been expressing concerns over these amendments.  There are eleven of us who have, before this amendment even came out, who have been discussing that wherever any of these terms and conditions and any of these amendments affects a client who is prepared to challenge it, we will go to the Supreme Court.  We miss Dr Conteh.  We will go to the Supreme Court and ask that it be struck down because it is unconstitutional. We are concerned Marion and we are going to volunteer our time, give of our free services where it is a necessity, nobody weh wah come run to wi and she bway unu she unu wah work fi free, but we are going to come together and try to see if we can urge the lawmakers to think these things out carefully, to consult with us in the Bar, to consult with the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.  Dehn noh consult with nobody at all.”

Both attorneys, also known to be affiliated with the opposition party, say their media appearance has nothing to do with politics, but with the consequences that the legislation imposes.

Dickie Bradley

“The law don’t say anything ‘bout if any PUP person is caught with anything.  Ih noh have nothing fi do with that.  When you take away a man’s liberty ih probably wah lose ih job.  The boss noh got three months fi wait for ah.  That is what we are talking about.  This law says the court, dehn di tell the court you can’t hear nobody bail application until fourteen days after they have applied for bail.  That have to be unfair Marion.   This last condition at the top here is saying that police officers can make an accusation against you and without a warrant, remand you and put you in Her Majesty’s Prisons.  Only the court can put you in jail, you know.”

Marion Ali

“Should be, not any more.”

Dickie Bradley

“Not anymore, thank you.”

We will seek to get the Government’s reaction to the comments of these law officers as soon as the ban on Channel Five is lifted, which should be at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting.  Marion Ali for News Five.

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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.

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12 Responses for “Draconian measures in amendments to Crime Control Act?”

  1. Robert says:

    I have noticed Attorney Bradley’s clients often get bail when charged with firearms offenses, at least from Justice McKenzie. How does that happen when the law forbids it?

  2. el alcalde says:

    I REALLY CANNOT UNDERSTAND THE !@#$%&^&* NEW LAWS!!!
    I LIVE IN A VERY TRIGGER HAPPY AREA WHERE EVERY DAY THERE ARE BULLETS FLYING AT DIFFERENT NEIGHBORS. I NEED TO GO OUT TO EARN AN HONEST LIVING, I NEVER OWNED A GUN, NEVER HAD A RECORD OF GUN HANDLING ETC. , I DETEST GUNS, I DO NOT WANT A GUN.WHY IF I WANT TO WEAR A HEAVY JACKET OR A HEAVY VEST TO PROTECT MYSELF, HOW THE !@#$ THAT MAKES ME A CRIMINAL? IF I DO NOT CARRY A GUN, NOR DO I BELONG TO ANY GANG? !@#$ YOU ALL WHO CAME UP WITH YOUR !@#$%^& NEW LAWS!!!

  3. BZNinCALI says:

    Plausible argument but that’s why you get the big bucks Dickie…

    When was the last time one of your clients murdered someone with a flare gun? If your boat bruk down all the time, you need to check the sea worthiness of it & stop risking life & limb. Musa, Briceno & others including Heredia whom I believe was a boat captain at one time had a chance to give their input & make changes & suggestions. Correct the things that need to be corrected but let’s not pretend that law abiding citizens will be targeted. The boys at your alter are not choir boys.

    Thanks for the pro bono work. Lavern can use some of that charity, help a sister out….

  4. rootsman says:

    These laws are really stupid thus the law makers must also be very stupid for bringing such laws into play or there are ulterior motives for enacting these laws such as the ability of the GOB to attack those they consider their enemies much easier, are there not already laws against possession of hand guns which are the main weapons in committing most of the heinous crimes around Belize and does the criminals give a damn about those laws? Then what makes the GOB think that they will care about the new laws, the necessary laws are already on the books they just need to apply them and have cops that are honest and smart enough to protect the integrity of the cases and prosecutors to effectively stand against these not so smart lawyers to win them for the DPP.

  5. The People Had Enough says:

    ANYONE NEED MORE PROOF THAT BARROW IS A DICTATOR? ANYONE? ANYONE? WE BETTER STOP THIS MADDAA!!@$$ BEFORE ITS TOO LATE, 2011 MUST BE THE YEAR THAT THE PEOPLE OF BELIZE SHOW GOVERNMENT ENOUGH IS ENOUGH AND KICK THEM OUT OF OFFICE BY FORCE IF WE HAVE TO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! DON’T THEY GET IT A LAW ABIDING CITIZEN WILL NOT GO THROUGH THE PROCESS OF ACQUIRING A LICENSE TO COMMITT A CRIME MY GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ARE WE BELIZEAN LEADERS GODDAMN RETARDED OR SOMETHING? IF PEOPLE WERE ABLE TO PROTECT THEMSELVES MOST CRIMINALS WOULD THINK TWICE POUNCING ON THE INNOCENT, BECAUSE THE INNOCENT MAY POUNCE BACK.

    BARROW AND LEADERS OF BELIZE, REPEAT THIS PRAYER, YOU NEED IT: “Oh Allah! I seek Your guidance by virtue of Your knowledge, and I seek ability by virtue of Your power, and I ask You of Your great bounty. You have power; I have none. And You know; I know not. You are the Knower of hidden things.”

  6. reggie says:

    5 is for the people.Don’t kill yourself out for the G.O.B. once a person change he can’t be trusted.Be carefull of the P.M. don’t Bend for him.He will be gone soon and 5 wil still be here .pay your price now.And Please do what is best for the People keep us up to date.Make sure you ask about the oil money price of oil went up so i guess Belize will have some money to start off the new year good for my people.

  7. From the West says:

    I have been bugging the minister long time over some of the insane propositions of the law. I agree that some of it is unconstitutional, how can you lock up a citizen and deny bail without a hearing.

  8. OW Resident says:

    it is obious that these laws were not well thought of. our constitution affords Belizeans the right of protections of self and of property. The use of bullet proofs vest takes away that right of a person to protects his/her life or that of his family. The laws are also explicit by saying that as long as it does not violate the right of others. The government should pass a law that can afford that right to law abidding citizens such as prosecutors, enforcement officers, people who have had thier lives threaten, people who have be targeted by robbers, collection agents. the fact is everybody should has the right to protect themselves. their should be mechanisms in place that could be used. You just can put an umbrella law for all citizens.

    Flare guns are a lifeline for all sailors. How on earth could have the put this as a prohibitted item. This is total nonsense. it is obvious somebody is not doing thier homework.

  9. Robert2 says:

    So typical, when law enforcement fails or is corrupt, CRACK DOWN ON THE INNOCENT!

  10. islander says:

    Flare guns are illegal either because the word “gun” is part of its name or because it shoots 12 gauge flares….BUT they are made of plastic which means if you tried real ammunition in it, it will blow up…Some moronic people will say but Glock pistols are made of plastic and they don’t blow up, actually only the receiver “handle” is made of plastic, the chamber and barrel are all made of high grade metals which can withstand high pressures…

    As a seaman this stupid flare gun affects me 100%, whats so dumb is that I can legally carry my 9mm pistol with a license but yet I can’t even get a license for a flare gun which is a safety device on any boat.

  11. Consern says:

    Folks remember that history shows clearly how much suffering the citizens of various country had, and continue to suffer because of stupid egotistical politicians. Until the masses wake up to the reality of the kind of power that politicians are intrusted with over our lives, we will continue to be casual about the choice of political leaders.

  12. Disappointed says:

    I agree with rootmans, islander and others, a flare gun being a prohibited firearm, who the hell thought of that ? I am losing faith in my Belizean government. It seems that they aren’t thinking at all. They are not even using 5% of their brain coming up with that law, it is really sad to see my people being guided by people who are not even using their brain, can they tell me what one will use in place of a flare gun at sea?

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