Belize - Belize News - - Great Belize Productions - Belize Breaking News
Home » Social Issues » Legal minds discuss sad state of justice in Belize
Jan 20, 2006

Legal minds discuss sad state of justice in Belize

Story PictureToday members of Belize’s legal community gathered in Belize City as part of the seventh annual Bench and Bar Summit. Topics for this year’s event were focused on the theme, “Sustainable Development: Challenges for the Environment and the Law.”

According to the experts, cases such as the BACONGO lawsuit to stop the construction of the Chalillo dam have highlighted environmental law and the role of the judiciary in such matters. The BACONGO case spanned more than two years, working its way through the courts until it wound up in the Privy Council. But the time factor of that case has underlined another issue… While Belizeans are accustomed to hearing that the wheels of justice turn slowly, attorneys are now contending that the harsh reality of today could mean longer delays, especially in civil proceedings. But more disturbingly, it also appears that a lack of judges and burgeoning backlogs could hurt those who can least afford the cost of justice.

Michel Chebat, Pres, Belize Bar Association
?The longer cases take to go through the system, the more expensive it becomes for clients, obviously. So it is a problem for all of us. It is a problem that must be dealt with not only from the point of view of the bench, but also from the Bar and with assistance of government. Clearly we believe that more resources must be put aside for the operation of the justice system.?

Karla Vernon
?It was also indicated that some civil cases may wind up being put on hold for some time due to the huge number of criminal cases.?

Michel Chebat
?Unfortunately that is currently happening. As things currently stand, we only have one Supreme Court Judge working on the civil side. So it means that all of those civil matters previously set have now been adjourned to a farther date, so that the criminal matters can be attended to.?

?Belize is generally a litigious society where many cases come in through the system, but I think what we have seen is an increase in the number of criminal matters coming in before the court and we have not see the numbers at the Supreme Court in terms of judges increase to balance off the current situation.?

?The reality is that we all do pro bono work in our practice, but I think those of us who are willing to do it, I don?t think there is sufficient of us in numbers to be able to provide for all the defendants out there who really need representation. I think this is a matter also that needs to be dealt with face-on by the government. I think it is government?s responsibility primarily to ensure that people in the society have access. And I mean including having an attorney to represent them when they are faced with criminal charges.?

Today’s sessions included international speakers David Hunter of the Environmental Litigation Associates and Justice Sandra Paul of the Environmental Court of Trinidad, as well as local environmentalists.

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.

Advertise Here

Leave a Reply