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Aug 5, 2022

C.C.J. Perfects Judgment in Hillaire Sears Appeal Case

Hillaire Sears

On May twentieth, the Caribbean Court of Justice declared that the re-incarceration of Hillaire Sears in April 2014 had breached his constitutional right to personal liberty and that the revocation of his parole by the Parole Board in May 2014 breached his constitutional rights to both personal liberty and equal protection of the law. Most importantly, the C.C.J. repealed the decision of the Parole Board to revoke Sears’ parole and ordered his immediate release from prison.  Sears was serving a twenty-five-year sentence for manslaughter, when he was granted parole in December 2012. On April third, 2014, while working at the prison, Sears was suspected of having cannabis in his possession, thus violating one of the conditions of his parole. He was subjected to a urine test, detained and subsequently, remained in prison for fifty-five days until May twenty-eighth, when he was informed in writing by the Parole Board that the urine analysis confirmed that he had tested positive for cannabis and his parole had been revoked. Sears was never afforded an opportunity to be heard by the Parole Board. Four years later, he brought a constitutional claim challenging the lawfulness of his detention and the revocation of his parole. The Supreme Court of Belize dismissed Sears’ claim. The Court of Appeal, confining itself to procedural issues, agreed with the Supreme Court.  With particular reference to Sears’ re-incarceration in 2014, the C.C.J. noted that the Prison Rules had provided important constitutional safeguards for parolees suspected of having breached the conditions of their parole. In Sears’ case, he was not afforded any of those safeguards when he was arrested and detained. The Court was, therefore, satisfied that Sears’ arrest and detention in April 2014 was arbitrary, without any legal authority and without due process. Accordingly, he was deprived of his fundamental right to personal liberty for those fifty-five days from April third until May twenty-eighth, 2014, when the Parole Board revoked his parole.

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