Posted: Thursday, September 21, 2023. 2:55 pm CST.
By Horace Palacio: The United Democratic Party (UDP) has issued a call for Prime Minister John Briceno to take urgent action on the country’s deteriorating judiciary. In a recent press release, the UDP accuses Attorney General Anthony Sylvestre of incompetence, stating that his denial of the issues facing the system will only further impede the delivery of justice in Belize.
According to the UDP’s press release, crown counsels have engaged in what they describe as a ‘sick out’ to protest working conditions and the administration’s “continued abuse and disrespect” of Belize’s public officers. The Attorney General has refused to acknowledge this as industrial action, and this approach is strongly condemned by the UDP.
The UDP also argues that the contract and compensation package for the recently employed junior counsel April Campbell is a significant point of contention amongst the crown counsels. The party claims in their release that Campbell’s package is a “slap in the face” to other public attorneys, and appears to have been the tipping point for the disgruntled crown counsels.
Citing the current state of crime, the UDP press release calls attention to the increasing risks faced by legal practitioners, including prosecutors and judges. The party insists that the crown counsels’ request for additional security measures or allowances is “not unreasonable.”
The UDP press release also criticizes Attorney General Sylvestre for dismissing the crown counsels’ actions and demands. The UDP claims this dismissal is part of a broader pattern of disrespect demonstrated by the Briceno administration towards Belizean legal practitioners.
They specifically cite the administration’s choices to bypass Acting Chief Justice Michelle Arana and Acting Chief Magistrate Aretha Ford in favor of foreign judges as an example of this disregard. Additionally, the UDP accuses the government of favoring junior counsel April Campbell, a recent graduate, over well-qualified Belizean lawyers with decades of experience for the post of Legal Assistant.
The UDP press release ends with an appeal for immediate action from Prime Minister Briceno. The party emphasizes that denial will neither improve the performance of crown counsels nor address the challenges of a “complicated and expensive” change in the court system.
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