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Mar 30, 2020

The Judiciary of Belize Response to COVID-19 Preventative Measures

COVID-19 is having an impact in every imaginable sector. As you know, there is a backlog in cases to be heard and decisions to be delivered at the Supreme Court.  But the court now has to safeguard the health and safety of judicial officers, officers of the court, staff members and the general public, while maintaining a functional judicial system. So civil and criminal matters are now being heard remotely to enable access to justice and trials by jury have been suspended. The court is also ensuring that social distancing is implemented at the courthouse. The measures were finalized by the Chief Justice following a meeting with stakeholders, including the Bar Association.


Gavin Courtenay

Gavin Courtenay, Executive Committee Member, Bar Association of Belize [File: March 19th, 2020]

“Certain measures were discussed and agreed to further certain initiatives to limit the potential spread of the virus, including measures such as social distancing. So the measures we are taking are looking at reducing person to person contact, reducing the amount of persons who will be in the precincts of the court at a particular time and maximizing the use of technology and introducing new initiatives where technology is concerned so as to further those objectives. Certain matters—particularly in the criminal court—the Chief Justice had already issued a notice that trials with juries had been temporarily suspended. So any trial for which somebody is charged with an offence and it has to be charged by a jury; that is being suspended until further notice. Those that are being tried by judge alone are still continuing; therefore, if any person who is accused will still be able to attend their trial if it is before a judge. And similarly, in the magistrate’s court, because we discussed measures that are going to be taken as well, the trials with multiple defendants have been temporarily suspended as well. But those with single defendants or in certain cases, one or two, those will still be disposed of as normal. And it is important to also just state that both at civil and criminal side, urgent matters will still continue to be heard.”

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