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Attorney General says Court will be ‘Supreme’ no more amid sweeping reforms

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Posted: Tuesday, January 18, 2022. 8:38 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: Attorney General Magali Marin-Young says that after a year of austerity and cost-cutting and years more of neglect and disrepair, it is onward and upward for the Judiciary.

It is starting with physical conditions, with repairs to 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, goes west to the Charles Bartlett Hyde Building where it will have more space, parking and areas for mediation, as well as software being developed to facilitate and manage collection of child maintenance payments and cases.

As for the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, long located at Regent Street and Treasury Lane, there will be repairs to these buildings and subsequently relocations to the current National Bank of Belize building on Regent Street during those repairs. Software for management of the court’s activities and retrofitting of courtrooms with video cameras to assist with dispensation of cases is on-going.

The A.G. promised a full Judicial Complex to house all levels of the Judiciary once the economy improves, as well the start of legislative reforms to the structure of the Judiciary. It starts quite literally with the name.

Marin-Young said, “Firstly, it is proposed that the Supreme Court be renamed Belize’s High Court, since it is a misnomer to call it the Supreme Court, when it is not our apex court. Under a newly restructured Court of Appeal, and a new High Court, there is to be a Chief Justice whose judicial functions are to be re-cast to administratively supervise the performance of all High Court and Court of Appeal judges, and allowing for him or her to sit on either court from time to time, in important matters of his or her choosing.”

She cited the structures of courts in the Eastern Caribbean, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago which has one leader in charge of both courts, assisted by senior justices leading the Civil and Criminal Divisions. The Civil Division will cover Administrative Law, Family and Trust and Commercial Law. The Chief Justice continues to head the Judicial and Legal Services Commission.

A Senior Courts Bill is being developed and will be consulted on before being tabled, and rules will be developed for family, probate and Court of Appeal cases, and a permanent Chief Justice will then be appointed.

“Belize can only prosper if we can engender confidence in the Judiciary from the business community and foreign https://www.xomba.com/ investors and assure them that there is recourse to a strong and independent Judiciary in the event of a dispute. Perhaps even more importantly, the Belizean people must have confidence that the rule of law prevails in Belize, and that justice will always be delivered swiftly and justly,” the Attorney General concluded.

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