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Jan 19, 1998

Chief Justice says farewell

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It was a picture perfect day for members of the legal profession. Having the dust brushed off their wigs and robes dry cleaned, they turned out in record numbers as the Supreme Court held its ceremonial opening for 1998. Patrick Jones was among those on hand on Regent Street.

The significance of this year’s ceremonial opening of the Supreme Court was underscored by it being the last one presided over by Sir George Brown in the capacity of Chief Justice.

Those who attended this morning’s ceremonies expecting him to drop a bombshell, left the historic Supreme Court building disappointed. Sir George used his forty minute speech to review the work of the Judiciary over the last twelve months and to preview the upcoming year.

Among the highlights since his last review, Sir George said that the Judiciary welcomed home three fully trained attorneys, there was a new Director of Public Prosecutions appointed and there was the establishment of a Municipal Court last August in Belize City.

Judges and magistrates countrywide were kept busy last year as the number of cases at all levels of the Judiciary remained high. Although there are only eleven cases on the January session of the Supreme Court, 1998 looks to be no different for the administration of justice in Belize.

Sir George Brown – Chief Justice

The number eleven for the January session is a historical number for this session. During my tenure usually its twenty five to forty cases for the January session.

Although he gave no comparative figures, the Chief Justice reported a heavy workload for the courts during 1997.

Sir George Brown

The Supreme Court. There were eighty-six criminal cases heard in 1997. Of those eighty-six cases fifty-one were heard in the central district. In the Southern district there were fourteen and in the Northern district there were twenty-one. In the Civil Division. Civil cases filed in the Supreme Court not including divorce petitions or summary procedure cases amounted to five hundred and thirty-five. The five hundred mark has been maintained for the last three years. Inferior Court Appeal. Seven appeals were lodged during 1997. Twenty appeals were disposed of. This from the back-log that stood with us from 1996. The Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal sat three times during 1997: in February, May and October. Fifteen criminal appeals were lodged and eleven were disposed of. Twenty-two civil appeals were lodged and twenty-seven were disposed of.

And in his parting shot, Sir George recalled some memorable cases during his tenure on the bench as well as his fondest memories of the last eight years, one of which was when he was invited to address the press club.

Sir George Brown

When I made the point that the law is intended to protect not only the individual but the public as a whole and publication which prejudices the prosecution is unacceptable as that which prejudices the accused. In fact the essential requisites are impaired if instead of trail by the courts there are so called trial by the press. The point is that the press plays a vital part in the administration of justice. It is the watch-dog to see that every trial is conducted fairly, openly and above board. But the watch dog may sometimes break loose and we have to beware of this.

And when he leaves at the end of the month, Sir George will no doubt need a helping hand to transport all those parting gifts he received this morning, as there were a number of people who just couldn’t help but offer him a public “thank you” for all his years of service. Patrick Jones, for News Five.

Of the eleven cases which begin hearing Tuesday, two are for murder, two for attempted murder, two for manslaughter by negligence, and one each for the crimes of rape, forgery, arson, dangerous harm and the possession of counterfeit currency. Also at this morning’s ceremonial opening pathologist Dr. Mario Estradabran was given a citation for his outstanding work with the courts over the years. Estradabran was not on hand to receive the award having had to travel to Mexico because of the death of his mother over the weekend.


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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