Yesterday we told you about the Smith Family who says they are the latest victim of Belize’s Gun Law. The family of five was sent to jail after a young man, who was carrying a hand gun and running from police, barged into their home. The young man was caught and all those inside the house were arrested for firearm charges. After spending some days behind bars, 47 year old Sandra Casey, 22 year old Leon Smith, 19 year old Tamika Smith, 20 year old Rashida Brooks, 52 year old Alrick Smith and a 16 year old boy were release under the directions of the Director of Public Prosecution. However, the law in question remains the same. The People’s United Party has been demanding that the Government of Belize amend the law. Communications Officers for the PUP’s Eastern Caucus, Attorney, Kareem Musa, says that the prosecution plays an important role.
“The prosecution I think has big part to play whenever a family is brought before a Magistrate’s Court because if you have an instance where seven family members are brought to court, one individual is willing to own up to that and actually pleads guilty the prosecution, in my opinion, has a duty and obligation to ensure that the others are released. However in many instances you would find one of the individuals who pleads guilty, yes he will be sentenced to five years or two years or what have you, but the prosecution then still proceeds against the others; so, the other six individuals are likewise carted off to prison even though someone has already pleaded guilty for possession of firearm. I find that to be ridiculous, and abuse of the process and abuse of the office of the DPP. They should exercise their discretion in such instances and release the others who have no involvement with that firearm. So they do have a role to play when it comes to bringing charges against an entire family. I believe they have the discretion to exercise and they should exercise it immediately. I noticed they took a week so the Smith family had to be in prison for a whole week after their son was gunned down last week, they had to spend the next seven days in jail even though someone pleaded guilty to that firearm.”
Musa says that the People’s United Party will challenge the law on two platforms; as a constitutional motion and in the House of Representatives.
“At our last press conference we made proposals to the Minister of National Security in the hope that they would then realize the defect in this law and then take it on their own because they are the government of the day. Take it on their own as a motion in the house to repeal or amend these laws; they have not done so; we have not gotten any response from them. The other options that are available to us at this time: (1) we are taking a constitutional motion, the legal adviser Mr. Anthony Sylvester has already drafted those papers, it’s going to the Supreme Court and he is in the process of finalizing getting the signatures on there from one of the affected victims of this gun law and it will be lodged at the court I believe by Friday. So it’s a constitutional motion to challenge this law. (2) The second way in which the People’s United Party intends to challenge this law is by taking it to the House, a motion coming from the opposition to have this law repealed and amended as we had proposed; hopefully by then the government will be onboard. This is now a national issue; this is no longer about playing politics. This is a national issue, day in and day out families are being affected, innocent family member’s lives are being ruined and it’s day in and day out. You guys spend time at court and you guys see it for yourselves and you see it happen every single day.”
The charges were not withdrawn from a 17 year old boy who had wanted to plead guilty to the charges at the arraignment. The 17 year old was not brought to court yesterday and we still understand he is still remanded into custody at Belize Central Prison.