Last night, we took you inside the Senate's budget debate in Belmopan - or a portion of it - since the debate went for almost 12 hours.
But after the budget, the Senate debated the Crime Control and Criminal Justice Amendment Bill, which is one of the police department's latest get-tough-on-crime initiatives.
Last month, The Ministry of Home Affairs unveiled the department's National Crime Fighting Strategy 2018-2020. It's a comprehensive set of changes that police want to make, to counter crime and violence, specifically gang related crimes.
One of the legislative changes that would come under the Crime Fighting Strategy was laws to target the culture of gangs in Belize, and Belize City specifically.
Well, we've seen the final draft of the Crime Control and Criminal Justice Amendment Bill, and the Government and law enforcement authorities are not joking.
One section of the amendment says, quote, "A person who is a gang member, or in order to gain unlawful benefit, professes to be a gang member…commits an offense… and is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years." End quote.
Any subsequent convictions on indictment can land an accused gang member in jail for up to 25 years.
For accused gang leaders, the amendment applies stiffer penalties on summary conviction - meaning at the Magistrate's Court level - a person accused of being a gang leader can be sentenced to a maximum of 25 years in prison. A second conviction on indictment can land a convicted gang leader in jail for up to 40 years.
Shooting at the cops, or any other law enforcement arm, is now a far more serious offense. The amendment says, "A gang member who intentionally, by any means necessary, wounds or causes grievous bodily harm, or shoots at with intent to do some grievous bodily harm, a police officer, a prison officer, a member of the Belize Defense Force, a member of the Belize Coast Guard, an Income Tax officer….commits an offense, and is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding thirty years."
Then, there are the changes to law in the treatment of persons deemed as sympathizers of gangs or gang members.
Any person, whether or not he or she is a gang member, carries out a gang related activity at the direction of any gang leader, knowingly assists, aids or abets any gang leader, assists in the concealment of gang activity, commits an offense and is liable on conviction at the Supreme Court to a prison sentence of up to 20 years.
Harbouring a gang member is also a serious offense that can get you sent to jail for 5 years.
There are a number of other changes to the law, but you get the point.
We are told that this the Crime Control and Criminal bill passed last night by the Senate in a vote of 8 in favor - including the government side, business and the church, 4 opposition against, and 1 abstention.