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May 13, 2011

Legislation seeks to introduce trial without jury in murder cases

Dean Barrow

The significance of a trial by a jury of peers was etched into literary history over half a century ago in the play Twelve Angry Men and it has been part of our legal system throughout Belize’s history. But what can be considered progressive or regressive, depending on your perspective, a trial by jury particularly in murder cases will more than likely cease to exist.  Imposition of the death penalty and murder trials without juries will need the support of three fourths or twenty four members out of the thirty-one elected members of the House for a constitutional amendment.  Despite the fact that the Barrow administration easily wins the numbers game because of their super majority in the House, the P.M. felt it necessary to explain the bold move that also includes provisions that will allow witnesses to be absent from the witness stand.

Dean Barrow

“To provide for the anonymity of witnesses and the admission of witness statements into evidence at a criminal trial to ensure the safety of witnesses to provide for trial without a jury in certain cases in criminal proceedings. To clarify the provisions regarding the imposition and execution of the death sentence for capital offences and to provide for matters connect therewith or incidental thereto. Mister Speaker, since the proposed Belize Constitution Eight Amendment Bill 2011 introduces some sea changes with respect to traditional fundamental rights. I believe it is important even at this introductory stage to describe for the public and of course the members of the House the key features of the bill. It is a traditional sacrosanct right that if you are accused of something, you should be able to face your accuser, you should be able to face anybody who is going to testify against you. And so this is a fundamental change Mister Speaker and we are well aware of that. But then again we fool ourselves if we don’t accept that witnesses don’t come forward especially with respect to gang-related shootings and gang-related murders because they are told that if they say anything, they too will be murdered. It has happened, it’s not a matter of talking, it’s not a matter of idle threats, it has happened and it has happened on several occasions. So if we are going to be able to get the evidence that will allow us to secure convictions, especially in the case of gang-related murders, we need a provision such as this one.”

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7 Responses for “Legislation seeks to introduce trial without jury in murder cases”

  1. BZNinCALI says:

    As much as I hate to see us lose the Jury system, I have to agree with this move as well & I am glad to see the PM responding to the cries of the Belizean people. The Jury system is not working for us & we have to deal with our reality, neither jurors or witnesses are safe in our present environment. I hope our elected officials have the strength to follow through & put our people first & risk losing the money we now receive from Western Europe, we are paying too high a price for some rich idiots experiment.

  2. Alex says:

    dash weh di jury because they are hopeless . THey lone mek murderers walk free. down with the jury i say down down down!

  3. Storm says:

    Making it easier to convict a defendant, whether guilty or not, may not be the answer, unless Belize is prepared to have innocent men accidentally hanged, and, thus, some guilty ones get away.

    UDP is trying to take the easy way out, at the cost of killing some innocent people.

    The right way, the one Belize deserves, is to overhaul the police and prosecution from top to bottom, get professional investigators like modern countries have, and do a winning job with crimes. Right now the police are slipshod and untrained [not their fault] and prosecutors outgunned.

    And we need to adopt laws to protect witnesses at all costs, maybe make witness statements admissible as evidence if the witness refuses to testify.

    I think we should consult some British and American prosecutors and police experts, and study their laws to see how they control crime.

    Belize can solve its problems without introducing a Reign of Terror.

  4. Elgin Martinez says:

    I really don’t see your point PM.Thesame way members of the jury can be bribe.Who is to say that members of the DPP can’t be bribe.

  5. belama resident says:

    does this government really intend to reduce crime? Belama police station still close down!!

  6. Justice says:

    It would be ok if implemented correctely but Lucas said some major things that is worth thinking about. With barrow you never know the real reason for doing things.

  7. MACAL RIVERA says:


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