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Jan 16, 2024

Opening Ceremony held for 2024 Legal Calendar

The opening ceremony for the Senior Court session for the 2024 legal year aired virtually today. The ceremony included a mass at the Wesley Methodist Church, and the usual pomp and circumstance with the parade of police officers and the B.D.F. marching band, which played the Belizean National Anthem in front of the historic court buildings. That comprised the presence of the Senior Court judges, members of the Bar Association, Commissioners of the High Court, court marshals, the Attorney General, the Commissioner of Police, and an inspection of a police guard of honour by Chief Justice Louise Blenman. The parade was followed by addresses made by the Chief Justice, as well as the Attorney General and the President of the Bar Association. News Five’s Marion Ali has the full story in this report.


Marion Ali, Reporting

The impressive parade in front of the court block in downtown Belize City marked, as it does every year, the start of the 2024 legal year. The event was attended by members of the bench and bar, Attorney-General Anthony Sylvestre, President of the Bar, Senior Counsel Andrew Marshalleck, and other officers of the court. Inspector of Police, Christopher Martinez invited Chief Justice, Louise Blenman to inspect a guard of honour. Following the march past, Chief Justice Blenman started her address by sharing the legislative reform.


Louise Blenman

Louise Blenman, Chief Justice

“In last year’s address, I acknowledged the visionary work of the former Attorney General, Mrs. Magali Marin-Young, Senior Counsel, and the Government of Belize in the enactment of the Senior Courts Act. The Act modernized and reformed the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal to a unified court system, now referred to as the Senior Courts of Belize. This reform has been transformative and undergirds the independence of the judiciary. The Act has comprehensively streamlined the judiciary in Belize. In addition to the creation of a number of new positions in the Senior Courts, the Act created a structure which is akin to the structure which exists in other jurisdictions, such as the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court.”


As the Chief Justice acknowledged, Belize’s justice system is beset by many challenges, including the delay in access to justice. Thus, there is the need for judicial reform to complement the legislative reform. Backlogs, she said, was just one of the challenges. But there have been measures taken towards this end, including efficient case management being conducted in both civil and criminal cases, the increased use of sentencing indications, which has led to the disposal of criminal matters without trial, a more stringent adjournment policy in place, alternative dispute resolution methods, including mediations, and a zero-tolerance policy for long outstanding judgements. Judgements are now expected to be delivered within a six-month period. In 2023, four judges were welcomed to the high court to help deal with the backlog of cases. Attorney General, Anthony Sylvestre spoke about his office’s involvement in drafting amendments and new legislations, a total of fifty-four of which were passed.


Anthony Sylvestre

Anthony Sylvestre, Attorney-General

“Madam Chief Justice, over the past legal year, the Attorney General’s Chambers has been extremely active, drafting amendments to a number of pieces of existing legislation, coming up with new legislation in relation to areas of the law which have been prioritized by government, and drafting subsidiary legislations. A total of 54 pieces of legislations were passed by the National Assembly in  2023, and a total of 159 statutory instruments were drafted and promulgated, compared to some 31 pieces of legislations enacted and 175 statutory instruments being promulgated the previous year. Amongst these acts enacted in 2023 were a new Fiscal Incentives Act, a new Extradition Act, the Civil Asset Recovery and Unexplained Wealth Act, And the Law Revision Amendment Act.”


President of the Bar Association, Senior Counsel Andrew Marshalleck focused his address on legislative measures that have been introduced to deal with major illegal activities.


Andrew Marshalleck

Andrew Marshalleck, S.C., President, Bar Association

“In the past year, we have seen a myriad of legislation enacted. A fair number of them are designed to combat money laundering, terrorist financing, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These laws, we are told, are essential to maintaining banking relationships internationally and allowing us to participate financially in the global economy. They are passed with dizzying speed and set new complex standards for participation in the financial system.  We’ve also seen regulations passed to penalize price-gouging and to regulate the production and delivery of sugarcane and to severely penalize assaults against members of the National Assembly and public officers, among others. We now have draft legislation on the table to incentivize activities sequestering carbon and allowing for the trade of carbon credits. All of these laws rest squarely on the power of the state to penalize those who act contrary to them.”


Chief Justice Blenman said that although 2023 had its challenges, it was a successful year, and the outlook for 2024 is for even more efficient work. Marion Ali 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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