As is the custom in the third week of every new year, the Supreme Court holds a special sitting to mark the beginning of the new court session. This year’s sitting was convened by Acting Chief Justice, Samuel Awich. In his address the Acting Chief Justice highlighted the activities of the past year, one of them being the replacement of the Privy Council by the Caribbean Court of Justice on November 29th 2010.

Samuel Awich – Acting Chief Justice

“Ladies and gentlemen it is my guess that there are those even now who would prefer to go to the Privy Council. There must be a minority and I think their wish is a matter of nostalgia for the past rather than logic and good sense. I learnt that to instruct a barrister in England to take up overseas appeal to the Privy Council cost the equivalent BZ $250,000.00 to $300,000.00 deposit and that was not the full fees. At the cost it was obvious that the appearance from Belize in civil cases at the Privy Council were merely a handful and one might say that Belize departed from the Privy Council before being forced to leave. There are certainly tangible and practical advantages in Belize joining the Caribbean Court of Justice. The main and immediate one is of course the cost of final appeal cases would be much lower and appearance would be able to attend courts at the hearing of their final appeal right here in Belize City or in Port of Spain, Trinidad. A less tangible advantage is that in the long term case law will develop in the Caribbean based on local circumstances. The Bridgetown agreement refers to this advantage as a development of Caribbean jurisprudence through judicial process.”

The acting chief justice also spoke on the surge in crime in the past year.

Samuel Awich – Acting Chief Justice

“The most worrisome occurrence in 2010 was of general concern to the judiciary and the general populace; it was the surge in crime and violence. Most troubling about it was that the perpetrators of crime and violence became comfortably daring. Very many times they attacked and killed in broad daylight in the view of many people. Once a killing took place within the presence of one of our court and in October last year an attorney and his wife were killed in their house which was in a gate up area. Earlier in the year a very senior and respected attorney was shot and gravely injured while leaving his office. It is by the grace of God that he has recovered and resumed his duties, we all pray for him. Many other innocent people were similarly brutalized in 2010. The number of reported homicide in 2010 is 132, and that is still high for the population of Belize. Despite the surge in violence the public kept hope and the authorities showed determination to bring the surge in crime down. Religious leaders, civic leaders, the business community, school teachers and even school pupils came out to show their disapproval of criminal activities. The executive of the Bar Association was a late comer to the array of people who voiced their disapproval but better late than never. The Bar is certainly better suited than many to assist the fight against crime should they wish, maybe we will hear from them.”