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May 3, 2023

Association of Defense Attorneys Concerns on the Liberty of Citizens

Michelle Trapp

In the wake of the decision taken by the court to deny bail to Tehje Vaughn for the shooting death of Charles Canton, the Association of Defense Attorneys has issued a release saying that it is concern about two recent incidents involving the liberty of Belizeans who appeared before the courts. The association, which was established back in March 2020 as a watchdog of sorts, is calling on judicial officers to be mindful that the liberty of a person in Belize is a fundamental right which should be protected. Today, News Five spoke with the association’s vice president Michelle Trapp, who says that while judges do have the right to exercise discretion, what transpired during court on Tuesday is concerning.


Michelle Trapp, Vice President, Association of Defense Attorneys

“Made arguments to the court why the court should not consider bail or grant bail. And after doing so, the learned magistrate said bail denied without even hearing the defense counsel’s submission. It was the defense counsel who had to say will I be allowed to talk and that was when he got an opportunity to make a submission. Remember the magistrate had already said bail denied and his explanation to us is that even after he made his submission, I guess in her explanation, the reason for denying bail is because it is an ongoing investigation. Bear in mind that this is the magistrate court and all criminal matters starts at the magistrate’s court. Most cases, a person is charged within forty-eight hours of an offense alleged to have been committed. So within that forty-eight hours, often times or most times, the case is always ongoing. So for that to be one of the basis, the irregularity of making a decision that bail is denied just after hearing the prosecutor making submission without allowing defense to make a submission then make a decision, our position is – and it is not our position; it’s case law’s position, the law, the Constitution of Belize – is fair trial and wrapped up in fair trial is rule of law and due process. And we are also saying that even though a judge and a magistrate has a discretion as it relates to whether or not they will commit a person to bail that discretion that they have must be exercised judiciously. It means the judge or the magistrate can’t take anything into consideration that is not relevant.”

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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