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Apr 6, 2020

Over 400 Charged for Violating State of Emergency, Curfew

The full force of the law is coming down on persons who violate the measures of the state of emergency. Countrywide, more than four hundred persons have been arrested and charged; they could face up to five thousand dollars each in fines.  In Belize City this morning, these persons showed up to court for arraignment.  They gathered in front of the Magistrate Court building, generally observing the six-foot social distancing guidelines. Some say, however, they were caught in the wide net cast to contain COVID-19. Here is News Five’s Duane Moody with a report.

 

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police

“Over the weekend alone, over three hundred and twenty-eight persons to be exact were charged. By Friday morning, a total of seventy-eight were charged so overall, we charged about four hundred persons.”

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

Over four hundred persons have been picked up and charged since April second when a nationwide state of emergency was declared in Belize; a curfew between eight p.m. and five a.m. was instituted that gave the Police Department the power to charge those who are caught on the streets between those hours without a pass signed by the Minister of National Security. The draconian measure was put in place to help with preventing the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus, for which Belize has already recorded its first death.

 

Chester Williams

Chester Williams

“Officers must exercise discretion, especially in terms of persons who are moving around during the non-curfew hours. But while yes, they need to exercise discretion, I have said to them I do not want too much discretion to be exercised because at the end of the day, if it is that we exercise too much discretion then it would create that too many people are out on the streets. And the more people we have on the street, the greater the potential for the virus to be spread.”

 

Today, outside the courthouse in Belize City, scores of Belize City residents stood waiting for their names to be called, while for the most part adhering to social distancing guidelines. They were all picked up and charged within the last four days and slapped with one of nine charges under the law, including: Breach of curfew, Unable to provide reasons for movements outside curfew period, approved business operating outside specified time or keeping business open when required to be closed, failing to practice social distancing, failing to abide by social distancing protocols and hosting or attending a social event in breach of emergency.

 

But Heather Foreman says that on Saturday evening, even before the curfew was in place, she received an emergency call from her mother and went to visit her a few blocks away on Mayflower Street. By the time she returned to her yard, a female police officer approached her and told her that she was going to be charged for violating the law.

 

Heather Foreman

Heather Foreman, Lakeview Resident

“I get wah emergency call on Saturday evening at 5:20 p.m. from my mom because she is a sick patient with cancer. So I gone fi gone see what’s the situation with my mom. No police officer neva stop me or ask me the reason I was on the street. Upon reaching my mom house, I come out and went back home to Lakeview Street. Still noh know what is the problem for the police mobile coming under speed into Lakeview Street. Upon reaching my yard, the W just jump out and tell me get into the mobile. Dehn noh tell me reason why. They ker me to the substation on Vernon Street and one of the male right from there that I done pass and come home, he get ina the mobile and ker me dah the station on Euphrates Avenue and he read out to me that he di charge me fi noh have a reason why I deh out pan the street. Finding out that I get charge fi curfew. If dehn say that curfew deh out at eight p.m., why dehn still di pick up people early and di charge people fi curfew?”

 

But ComPol Williams says that some residents seemingly have no regard for the health of others when they fail to comply with the state of emergency and curfew.

 

Chester Williams

“We continue to see defiance on the part of some Belizeans who are just downright hard-headed and just don’t want to adhere to the regulations that have been put in place and as a Police Department we have the responsibility to ensure that we do what needs to be done with a view to ensure that the end state of the state of emergency is achieved which is to minimize or to stop the spreading of this deadly virus.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.


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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