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Legal changes to be made to allow for virtual court trials, protection of witnesses

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Posted: Thursday, February 3, 2022. 12:32 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Belize’s laws will be updated in two timely and critical areas following approval by Cabinet this week.

The Attorney General has been authorized to present amendments to the Inferior Courts Act to allow the Magistrate Rules Committee to make rules for virtual trials.

Virtual trials have been needed since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic in order to reduce the number of persons inside a courtroom and therefore the risk of transmission of the virus.

Also, Cabinet gave approval to the Attorney General to introduce the Protection of Witness Bill to provide for the granting of witness anonymity court orders to safeguard the identity of witnesses who are afraid to testify due to intimidation and threats.

There have been several cases in the past where witnesses have changed their stories on the witness stand or refused to appear when summoned because they have been intimidated, threatened, or paid off to change their stories or not appear in court in order to secure the acquittal of an accused. Such witnesses are often treated as hostile in court but the penalties for such offences are minimal at best.

 

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