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Jun 8, 2012

Independence Village Court now in session

The opening of a first magistrate court in a village took place today. The Chief Justice says it is fulfilling a legal requirement; with that the court was inaugurated in the village of Independence in the south. Nearby Communities such as Placencia and Red Bank will now access the Independence Court instead of the Dangriga Court. News Five’s Delahnie Bain reports.

 

Delahnie Bain, Reporting

The law requires the judiciary to make justice accessible to all citizens in as close proximity as possible to where they live, work and do business. That is why a Magistrates Court was inaugurated today in Independence Village, a growing community with over thirty thousand residents that unfortunately has had an increase in criminal activity.  Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin was on hand to cut ribbon, officially opening the court.

 

Kenneth Benjamin

Kenneth Benjamin, Chief Justice of Belize

“At present the litigants and witnesses and other court users from Independence and its surroundings are required to journey to Dangriga to the court there in order to attend to their legal business, that is a wholly unsatisfactory state of affairs and that’s why we’re here.  The courtroom has been under refurbishment for nearly one year. In fact, one of the first things that the attorney general said to me when I came to Belize is there is a court to be opened in Independence. So one of the first items on my familiarization tour was to come here to Independence to inspect the court, which I did in October of last year.”

 

The benefits of the new court include that persons from Independence and surrounding will not to travel to Dangriga for hearings.

 

Michelle Daley

Michelle Daley, Deputy Solicitor General

“The need to bring justice closer to Independence and to make justice more accessible to the areas surrounding Independence has long been something that has been considered as paramount importance. As crime has increased in this area, not something that we wish to continue to increase, but hopefully as we are able to have the face of justice be closer, it may somewhat act as a deterrent. It will give rise to a lessening of expense not only to the citizens, but to the state because, as we know, where we can save money, it will enable us to be able to put in more infrastructure elsewhere—not only within this district but throughout the country to improve the administration of justice.”

 

Kenneth Benjamin

“This is a coastline area and because of that there will be a lot of undocumented immigration and as a consequence, there will be attendant cases related to that kind of activity. So this court will have its fair share of cases related to matters of immigration and all the attendant criminal issues that arise there from.  There are also security issues. Certainly moving persons charged from the police station here to Dangriga comes with a security issue. That, hopefully, will be eliminated.”

 

Another important advantage is that the Independence Magistrates Court will alleviate the burden on Dangriga Magistrate, Ed Usher.

 

Lovette Griffith

Lovette Griffith, Acting Administrator, Magistrates Court

“The Magistrates Courts within all the districts deal with a myriad of responsibilities so you will find out that we cover not just family matters, but we also cover family matters which includes protection orders, we do custody cases, we take care of civil matters and so if you take into consideration the population and the surroundings of independence, inclusive of Dangriga, you can see how burdened the system over in Dangriga is.  Presently, we have Magistrate Ed Usher, who is stationed in Dangriga, who sits on matters for this southern Stann Creek Region on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So now, rather than moving an excessive amount of people, he will be making trips here. We know that in the very near future, there will be a full time magistrate here since we have magistrates who are returning from studies.”

 

Kenneth Benjamin

“This court is scheduled to sit on Tuesdays and Thursdays. As it is, the magistrate in Dangriga deals with cases for Independence on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So it is expected that the cases from Independence can be disposed of swifter and with more convenience, but knowing the experience I have had with court systems, Tuesdays and Thursdays will very quickly blossom into every day of the week. So be prepared for this court to sit every day of the week sooner than you think.”

 

Apart from Independence, the court will also serve Placencia and the smaller surrounding villages. Delahnie Bain for News Five.

 

In respect of Magistrates Courts elsewhere, the court in Benque Viejo is not fully functioning and is opened only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. But the intention is that in Benque and other areas, full time magistrates courts will be installed. 

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