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Aug 16, 2019

Commissioner Williams speaks on gang membership gangs

Since the beginning of this year, several persons have been charged for being in gangs. As recently as last week, six men were charged for being members of gangs. These charges are a part of the Belize Police Department’s efforts to cut the influence and reach of gangs and their associations. Today, Commissioner Williams responded to questions about the way in which charges are levied on persons suspected of being in gangs.

 

Reporter

“The Police Department has been announcing the successful prosecution for persons for being members of being in a criminal gang. They are taken to court and confessed and given a fine. Isn’t it inevitable for these persons to become repeat offenders after they pay these fines? Wasn’t the intention to discourage gang membership?”

 

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police

Chester Williams

“I don’t want to go too much into the affairs of the courts. The courts are a separate entity than the police and there must be that separation of powers between the police which forms part of the executive and the courts which forms part of the judiciary. While yes we have our task to arrest and take persons before the court, it is the court’s function to look at the circumstances and decide what punishment they are going to give to persons who have been accused of committing a crime. While, yes, I can say I am not happy about certain things, I cannot be upset with the court for what it is that they are doing. If it is that they become repeat offenders and they go back before the court, that on a second occasion the court is not going to have that same view and just give them a fine and that the court is going to impose a lengthy custodial sentence.”

Reporter

“When these legislations were drafted, the anti-gang legislation was drafted; was there contemplation for custodial sentence for guilty verdicts for this particular crime?”

 

Chester Williams

“Of course, the legislation does not speak to a fine; it speaks to custodial sentence. But as a lawyer, I will tell you that the magistrate does have the discretion because of a decision in one of the courts in the CCJ which says that the state cannot impose a mandatory minimum sentence and so it does give the magistrate the leverage where they can use their discretion in imposing a sentence on persons who have been found guilty of committing a crime.”


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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