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Chief Justice: Judiciary overcoming challenges, delivering justice more effectively

Posted: Tuesday, January 16, 2024. 11:10 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: Chief Justice of Belize Louise Blenman has opened the Legal Year 2024 by referring to the challenges the Judiciary faces, and how it has managed to overcome them.

Morale within the Judiciary and confidence in it from the public entered the year low, as facilities were not fit for purpose and cases were backlogged substantially.

With support from the Government, more judges were added and procedures streamlined to allow for faster hearing and judgment of cases in both the Civil and Criminal Jurisdiction. The legislation undergirding the system has been fully renovated in the Senior Courts Act, which streamlines the High Court and Court of Appeal into one linear jurisdiction.

As to the turnover of judges, hard-working Criminal Jurisdiction judge Ricardo O’Neil Sandcroft completed his term, and long-standing High Court Justice Herbert Lord, a former Chief Magistrate, retired in December, while Civil court judges Patricia Farnese and Genevieve Chabot ended their contracts. The Chief Justice welcomed their replacements and called on Belizean legal practitioners to join the Judiciary.

The Judiciary now has a three-year strategic plan “to improve further the efficiency and effectiveness of our courts and registries;” the Chief Justice said new and improved plans and policies will improve the system and service offered to litigants and the Belizean public, including greater use of technology.

Still, as many as 90 percent of cases in the Belizean legal system go to trial and only 10 percent are resolved through alternative dispute resolution, a ratio the Chief Justice said must change. The national mediation committee has been revived after two years of dormancy in an effort to oversee this transformation.

 

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