Attorney General says Court will no longer be ‘supreme’ amid sweeping reforms

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Posted: Tuesday, January 18, 2022. 8:38 a.m. CST.

By Aaron Humes: Attorney General Magali Marin-Young says after a year of austerity and cost-cutting and years of neglect and decay, the judiciary is on the move and on the rise.

It begins with the physical conditions, with repairs to the Magistrate’s Court buildings in Dangriga and Independence, Stann Creek District, and plans to build new premises in Orange Walk and repair others elsewhere.

The Family Court, currently located on Bishop Street, is moving west to the Charles Bartlett Hyde Building where it will have more space, parking and mediation areas, as well as software in development course to facilitate and manage the collection of child support payments and cases.

With respect to the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, long located at Regent Street and Treasury Lane, there will be repairs to those buildings and subsequent moves to the current National Bank of Belize building on Regent Street during these repairs. Software for the management of court activities and the modernization of courtrooms with video cameras to assist in the execution of cases are underway.

The AG promised a comprehensive court complex to house all levels of the judiciary once the economy improves, as well as the start of legislative reforms to the structure of the judiciary. It literally starts with the name.

Marin-Young said: “First, it is proposed that the Supreme Court be renamed the High Court of Belize, as it is a mistake to call it the Supreme Court, when it is not our Supreme Court. Under a newly restructured Court of Appeal and a new High Court, there must be a Chief Justice whose judicial functions are to be overhauled to administratively oversee the performance of all High Court judges and the Court of Appeal, and permit him or her to sit from time to time in either court, in important cases of his choice.

She cited court structures in the Eastern Caribbean, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, which have a chief in charge of both courts, assisted by senior judges heading the civil and criminal divisions. The civil division will cover administrative law, family and trust law, and commercial law. The Chief Justice continues to lead the Judicial and Legal Services Commission.

A Superior Courts Bill is being drafted and will be consulted before tabling, and rules will be developed for family, probate and appellate court cases, and a judge permanent chief will then be appointed.

“Belize can only prosper if we can instill confidence in the judiciary in the business community and foreign investors and assure them that there is recourse to a strong and independent judiciary in the event of a dispute. Perhaps most importantly, the people of Belize must be confident that the rule of law prevails in Belize and that justice will always be done quickly and fairly,” the Attorney General concluded.

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