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Backlogs continue to tax Judiciary at all levels: Chief Justice

Posted: Tuesday, January 16, 2024. 12:23 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Due to various reasons, backlogs in cases have taxed and vexed the Judiciary in 2023 despite efforts to reduce them.

Chief Justice of Belize Louise Blenman said 232 dormant ordinary claims in the Civil Division of the High Court were uncovered due to internal audits and disposed of.

In the Criminal Division, High Court Justices have managed to reduce their caseloads by at least 50 percent through new tools such as plea discussions, sentencing guidelines and more effective case management. The Chief Justice thanked the Director of Public Prosecutions and the defense bar for their work, but said there is need for more of the latter.

And while those are all completed cases, the Chief Justice said the remand population at the Central Prison, Hattieville, remains “unacceptably high:” “I visited the Central Prison and noted that several young people are among the detainees here. In Belize, it is not unusual for persons to have to wait in excess of eight years for a trial. This is highly unsatisfactory and is being addressed as a matter of priority.” She added that justices are working to keep the length of criminal trial to a maximum of two years.

Justices have also been dealing with inferior appeals from the Magistracy dating back to 2013, a total of 374, most of which have been completed.

At the Court of Appeal, there is a backlog dating back to 2017, with poor recording and transcripts of High Court hearings complicating the issue.

The Chief Justice also noted that after more than a year of displacement from the Old Treasury Building due to Hurricane Lisa, the hope is that they will be back in the next two months – and should have been back sooner but for “bureaucratic delays.”

 

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