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Supreme Court resumes jury trials

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Posted: Tuesday, February 23, 2021. 7:44 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Supreme Court of Judicature of Belize has resumed trial by jury as of Monday, almost a year after its suspension due to COVID-19.

The first such trials began on Monday in the Southern Judicial District, based in Dangriga, Stann Creek District, in the Criminal Division.

A statement from the court says it has been carefully consulting and collaborating with relevant stakeholders for the resumption of trial by jury from late last year and this has resulted in the retrofitting of courtrooms to accommodate jurors while keeping to COVID-19-related safety protocols mandated by the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

These include physical distancing, installation of signs and dividers separating the jurors, witnesses, counsel and accused, and guidelines covering the process of a jury trial from empanelment to deliberation.

The Court has been exempted from the guidelines on mass gatherings as it concerns selection and empanelment of jurors, which is done at the Dangriga Town Hall not far from the Court site. This exemption was granted after presenting all the measures put in place to ensure the safety and protection of all court users. Jurors can be assured that the Supreme Court of Belize will do its utmost best for them to feel safe and comfortable while they exercise their civic duty to the country of Belize.

The court reminds all users and members of the public to adhere to the legal requirements including mask-wearing, regular handwashing and physical-social distancing.

No timeline has been provided for the resumption of jury trials in Belize City, Belmopan, Orange Walk, and Corozal where the Court also meets.

Trial by jury is mandated by the common law and the Constitution in all criminal cases with the exception of murder and similar crimes, and in some civil cases.

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