Posted: Friday, August 14, 2020. 1:52 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: The amendment to the Crime Control and Criminal Justice Act, Cap. 102 of the Laws of Belize, proposes to limit Magistrates’ ability to deny bail at that level to persons illegally crossing the border as well as persons who buy their uncustomed goods who are brought before the courts.
But Caribbean Shores area rep and attorney Kareem Musa says if approved it will run the risk of lumping in relatively innocent persons who buy, often unknowingly, uncustomed goods.
“While the majority of citizens do not have any sympathy for border jumpers, the truth of the matter is we need to look out for the small man and woman during this very difficult economic time,” said Musa, adding that households are purchasing goods based on price rather than where they come from.
Musa questioned whether this offence can be put on par with, for instance, being found with an unlicensed firearm as the latter is well-known, but the provenance of chips, biscuits and so on is less clear-cut. He reminded that the principle of innocence before the law is enshrined in our Constitution.
Opposition representatives from constituencies along the borders – in Toledo and in Corozal and Orange Walk – pointed out that their constituents have long had contacts with Mexico and Guatemala dating back years if not centuries.
But Prime Minister Dean Barrow indicated that the Government was not prepared to give way for several reasons. The provision is essentially temporary, and can be rolled back when the situation is under control.
The Prime Minister said the Government was employing the principle of the Kriol phrase “The upholder is as bad as the thief,” i.e. that those buying are in fact aware that they are violating the law.
He pointed to Ambergris Caye where sales take place in the light of day and the contraband goods are clearly marked.
As with firearms offenses, the power of the Supreme Court to consider and grant bail remains unabridged.
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