Almost 1,300 lives have been lost violently in Belize during the past 18 years—the length of time it takes a boy to grow into a man.
Under the administration of the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP), there were 691 murders in 10 years—but there were no hangings! For the first three years of the United Democratic Party (UDP), 332 people have been murdered—but still, there have been no hangings.
The Criminal Code, Chapter 101 of the Laws of Belize, Section 106, Subsection (1) says, “Every person who commits murder shall suffer death...”
The last convicted murderer hanged was Kent Bowers in 1985. However, there has been a pause on formal state executions for the past quarter-century.
Amandala understands that there are roughly 25 men on death row today, some awaiting appeals to challenge their sentences.
Does the Barrow administration support a resumption of hanging? Here is what Prime Minister Dean Barrow had to say when we asked him to make a statement on the issue:
“Capital punishment is still a part of the law of this country,” said Barrow, “and what happened in the past was that people who were convicted of murder and sentenced to death appealed to the Privy Council and all of those appeals succeeded.”
In 2010, the Privy Council was abolished as Belize’s final appeals court and replaced with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
“If there are death penalty sentences handed down, as the law continues to provide for; whether or not they are carried out will again depend on how successful an appeal against the conviction and the sentence would be,” Barrow added.
He said, however, that the CCJ does not want to be considered a hanging court.
Barrow added that, “...on the other hand, it’s obvious to anybody who has eyes to see that philosophically, the attitude of judges in the Caribbean is different from the attitude of the British-English law.
“So I would think that it wouldn’t be as automatic as in the past, when they appealed to the Privy Council, that the convictions for murder that carried the death penalty will be thrown out.
“I would think that there is now more of a likelihood that such a conviction and such a sentence would be upheld by the Caribbean Court of Justice.”
Criminal Code, Chapter 101 of the Laws of Belize: Criminal Homicide
Section 106, subsection (1) : Every person who commits murder shall suffer death: Provided that in the case of a Class B murder (but not in the case of a Class A murder), the court may, where there are special extenuating circumstances which shall be recorded in writing, and after taking into consideration any recommendations or plea for mercy which the jury hearing the case may wish to make in that behalf, refrain from imposing a death sentence and in lieu thereof shall sentence the convicted person to imprisonment for life....
Subsection (3): “Class A murder” means:- (a) any murder committed in the course or furtherance or theft; (b) any murder by shooting or by causing an explosion; (c) any murder done in the course or for the purpose of resisting or avoiding or preventing a lawful arrest, or of effecting or assisting an escape or rescue from legal custody; (d) any murder of a police officer acting in the execution of his duty or of a person assisting a police officer so acting; (e) in the case of a person who was a prisoner at the time when he did or was a party to the murder, any murder of a prison officer acting in the execution of his duty or of a person assisting a prison officer so acting; or (f) any murder which is related to illegal drugs or criminal gang activity; “Class B murder” means any murder which is not a Class A murder. Ecclesiastes 8:11: “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” Amandala