All three gambling charges have been dropped in the San Pedro Magistrate court against businessman Peter Lawrence. Two of the charges were dropped based on technicalities while the third was dropped due to the police prosecutor’s failure to appear in court. The charges brought against Lawrence were based on a police operation back in July of 2012 in which the Gambling Control Board of Belize had suspected that the businessman was conducting illegal gambling at Pedro’s Inn.
According to Lawrence’s Attorney Aldo Reyes, his client was charged for two offences under the gambling prevention act and one under the gambling control act. “Two weeks ago, the two charges pursuant to the gambling prevention act were dismissed by the magistrate because the proper protocol was not followed by the police when initiating these proceedings. They had to have served a notice on Peter Lawrence before they could bring any charges. Under the gambling Prevention Act you have to serve a notice before you bring charges… on the 13th of February the final charge pursuant to the gambling control act was dropped because in effect there was nobody there to give any evidence. At the last hearing we indicated to the court that we wanted the trail to proceed at the last hearing. The Magistrate had agreed to an adjournment to today’s date and when the trail was called up, in effect the prosecuting officer was not in court,” said Reyes indicating that the prosecuting officer was Corporal of Police Shawn Andrews.
Lawrence was detained by SP Police on his premises after he allegedly failed to produce a gaming permit for gambling on the night of July 18, 2012. His arrest comes as a result of a warrant obtained by the Gambling Control Board of Belize and served to the San Pedro Police Department who had obtained several publications both in print and electronically that promoted the establishment as engaging in poker playing.
When told that it is common knowledge in the community that the said businessman is involved in poker activities and that in fact had no permission to do so from the Gambling Control Board of Belize, Reyes clarified that “You have to make the process follow as it should follow. Under the law the prosecutor needs to be the one to prove beyond any reasonable doubt – they are the ones that bear the burden of proof, that gambling is in fact occurring.” He also said that while the gambling matter was not the argument in court as the case had not matured to full trial; there was actually no evidence to prove that his client was involved in gambling. Reyes indicated that the court also ordered that the poker tables, chips and other items confiscated by police should be return to Lawrence in the condition as they were taken.
In speaking with an official at the Ministry of Trade and Investment who has the Gambling Control Board of Belize under their responsibility, The Sun was told that only two gambling licenses have been given out to establishments in San Pedro Town. The Ministry also said that for Lawrence to operate a poker business for gambling, he will be required to have a gambling license. The two establishments licensed for gambling are the ‘Belize Yacht Club’ and at Captain Morgan’s Retreat.
San Pedro Sun