|Attorney General Bernard Q. Pitts: mum's the word.|
|Police Crown Counsel Elizabeth Purcell|
The Barrow administration, in its effort to “Restore Belize”, has set up a “Special Court” to hear certain types of criminal cases speedily, but several members of the Judiciary have come out against it in principle. Word is spreading that this new addition to the war on crime may be unconstitutional.
If not unconstitutional, the new court has certainly been fast-tracked past the offices of the Director of Public Prosecutions who, under the Belize Constitution, is responsible for prosecuting all criminal cases in the entire country.
British attorney Elizabeth Purcell recently signed a one-year contract to take on the job of Police Crown Counsel to head its Prosecution Branch, Newly appointed Minister of Police and Public Safety, Doug Singh , told The Reporter. Purcell resigned from the Director of Public Prosecutions office in early May of this year.
Minister of Police and Public Safety Douglas Singh said he could not comment on the special court, only that it is operating out of Magistrate’s Courtroom #3, but Singh did affirm that Mrs. Purcell will be answerable to him as the legal advisor to the Police Department.
Magistrate Kathleen Lewis has reportedly been hand-picked by Belmopan to head the special court, whose jurisdiction and parameters at this time is unclear, but she told Reporter in Chief Magistrate Margaret McKenzie’s presence this afternoon, that she has not received any letter appointing her to head up a special court. McKenzie was equally noncommittal.
Attorney General Bernard Q. A. Pitts also declined to comment, saying that he “will not discuss that right now.”
Plans are proceeding speedily. It has been proposed for the Fast Track Court to be housed upstairs of the Police Prosecution Branch on North Front Street, and Solicitor General Ramjeet recently made a special trip to inspect the proposed area where the new court will be set up.
Furnishings for the new court have already been ordered, The Reporter has learned from a source in the judiciary. Calls to the Solicitor General’s office about the subject of the special court were not returned, and we were told that Solicitor General Oscar Ramjeet, was in a meeting.
Not so long ago, police files were shuttling back and forth between the offices of the Police and the former DPP Kirk Anderson, when the police had failed to follow Anderson’s instructions.
Anderson had to seek a Writ of Mandamus from the Supreme Court to make the Commissioner of Police comply with his authority to institute criminal proceedings.
The acting D.P.P. Cheryl-Lynn Vidal was reports say, vigorously opposed to the idea of whittling down her prosecutorial responsibility when it was first proposed, but Vidal refused to comment on the Police Department hiring its own Crown Counsel outside of her office, answerable to the Police Minister, and not to her.
In the Belize Constitution, at Section 50 sub-section 2 it says: “Powers conferred on the DPP to institute criminal proceedings is vested in the DPP to the exclusion of any other authority.”
How can the present DPP wash her hands off something so constitutionally significant as the Police Department setting up its own prosecution branch and not be answerable to her?
A ranking member of the Belize Bar Association told The Reporter late Thursday evening that the Bar is just beginning to hear about the existence of a special court within the magistracy, and the Bar would be paying close attention to its development.