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Oct 13, 2009

Senators weigh the value of Indictable Procedure Act

Story PictureAlso passed by the senate today was the bill to amend the Evidence Act and the Indictable Procedure Act to make way for the use of depositions in both Magistrate and Supreme Courts. The amendment allows for statements to be entered as evidence in the courts in an attempt to protect witnesses who are fearful of testifying before the courts and to increase the number of convictions in criminal cases. According to Senators Lisa Shoman and Eamon Courtenay, its too little too late.

Lisa Shoman, Senator
“Although it is I believe, we believe, an honest attempt to try to do something, anything, it is making a change in the law which really—mek wi bruk it down eena small change—noh wah mek wah lot ah difference for a lot of people because you see, madam president, the law still requires that if such a statement is to be admitted into evidence, it has to first of all contain a declaration that it is the truth and that the maker of that statement knows that it will be used in the trial and that that person knows that they are liable to prosecution. Two, very important and an additional safeguards, that statement must be made before a magistrate or a justice of the peace. The people of Belize need to understand the effect of the laws being amended. You still have to give a written statement, you still have to tell dehn your name, you still have to where you live, you still have to make it in front of a magistrate or a justice of the peace, you have still got to sign that statement. It certainly will not take the place of inspiring the community in Belize to work with and cooperate with police officers.”

Eamon Courtenay, Senator
“We have to weigh that on the one side with a right to assist the prosecution to secure convictions in cases where there is compelling evidence but people are scared. The PUP believes that it is an important tool in the fight to secure convictions. Our concern, however, is that this tool is perhaps a little bit too little too late. We need a frontal attack on crime on all fronts. Whilst we have no objection to this small amendment, an important amendment, we believe that it long past time for government to move expeditiously with a frontal attack on crime.”


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