Two More Escapees Caught
Today makes exactly 1 week since 28 inmates escaped from the Belize Central Prison - the largest prison break on record so far. Police have been aggressively pursuing these escapees, and at news-time tonight, 12 of them remain on the run.
16 have been recaptured, and 15 of them are back behind bars. You'll remember that 1 escapee was killed last week in a shoot-out with police.
Last week Thursday and Friday, the cops escorted 13 of the recaptured prisoners to court to be arraigned on the offense of escaping from prison. This morning, 2 more were taken to court, and we'll tell you who they are shortly. We start first with comments from Police Commissioner Chester Williams who expressed his frustration that some of the recaptured prisoners have basically been given a slap on the wrist. That's because their prison sentences for pleading guilty to the crime led the presiding magistrates to give them concurrent prison sentences
It's a technical court matter, but the Commissioner wants the escape penalty of 1 year to be added to any sentence that the escapee was serving before the prison break. Instead, the concurrent sentences of several of the prisoners mean that if they are serving any extended sentences for previous offenses, they don't have to serve any additional time connected to the escape penalty.
The commissioner has a problem with that, and in a press conference today in Belmopan, he explained why he has been in discussion with the Director of Public Prosecution to appeal the concurrent sentences which were handed down last week Thursday and Friday. Here are his comments:
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police
"Our manhunt continued over the weekend and we were able to apprehend two additional of them that is Perez and Paiz. They appeared in court this morning. I am not too certain what the outcome is. I believe that Perez had pled guilty this morning, and was sentenced to 1 year, to run concurrently with any other sentence that he may be serving. Well, I have an issue with the concurrent sentence because, if you're going to allow the sentence to run concurrently, it simply means the prisoner is not being punished for having escaped from prison. And so, the DPP and I have discussed the matter because, we had some last week as well, who were given concurrent sentences. And the DPP has indicated that she is going to appeal the sentence of these persons who were given concurrent sentences. It must be that by law, there is a sentencing guideline in law, which says that concurrent sentences are only used in situations where a person commits more than one offenses at the same time, and they arrive from the same circumstances, then the person is to be sentenced concurrently. Like, for example, you catch a man with a gun, and the gun has ammunition. It is one [set of] circumstances. So, you might sentence for 3 years for the gun, 3 years for the ammunition, but they would run concurrently. Let's say the man shoots at someone with the gun, and he is apprehended later on with the gun, and he's charged for the robbery, and [he is] charged for the gun. That should not be concurrent. It must be consecutive because it's two separate offenses. So, the same principle should apply here. The fact that escaping from prison is not akin to the offense for which they were in prison, it should not carry a concurrent sentence. So, I would want to think that the Magistrate erred, and we're hoping that with the appeal from the DPP, that we'll be able to rectify that issue, that they are sentenced accordingly for having escaped from prison."
Police Still Searching For The Dirty Dozen Escapees
And while Perez's brother tries to find out how best to help in with this latest legal trouble, police are still out looking for the other 12 escapees who are still on the run.
This morning, the police commissioner shared a few details on the parts of the Cayo, Belize, and Stann Creek Districts that the cops believe they are currently hiding out - based on sightings of these prisoners:
Chester Williams - Commissioner of Police
"Yes, for sure our immediate area of concentration remains between mile 17 on the George Price Highway to Mile 31 on the same George Price Highway, and then through the Coastal Road. That's our main area of concentration. We still believe that some of these prisoners are within that area. But, we have also received, information on sightings in Isabella Bank. We have received information about sightings in Seine Bight, in Camalote, and also in Belmopan. So, we continue to deploy our search teams to these areas, to see what we can find."
"We know that someone was captured outside of Belmopan over the weekend."
"Yes, right by the checkpoint by Belmopan."
"Okay so, was he in a vehicle?"
"No, he was not in a vehicle."
"He was walking?"
"He walked up to the checkpoint..."
"Well, the man thought that he could have passed the checkpoint without being observed. I guess he believed that for that moment, he was invisible. But, he was quite visible, and he was caught."
Police Do Not Believe There Was Collusion Between Guards and Escapees
The cops say that they have been closely looking at the circumstances at the Belize Central Prison, which led to last week's Monday's jailbreak. And, at this time, the cops have found no evidence to support any collusion between the escapees and the prison guards.
Here's what the Deputy Head of the National Criminal Investigations Branch had to say:
Sr. Supt. Hilberto Romero - Deputy Head, NCIB
"In regard to the investigation regarding the escapees, several statements have been recorded. Several persons have been interviewed. And so, far, we have found no collusion between any of the prison guards and the escapees."
"Sir, were the prison guards a part of these interviews?"
Sr. Supt. Hilberto Romero
"Yes, they are part of the interviews."
"How many prison guards were a part of the interviews?"
Sr. Supt. Hilberto Romero
"Approximately, about 8."
Police are asking anyone who spots any of the remaining 12 escapees to call 922.