Activist Attorney Audrey Matura Addresses Prosecutors’ Sick-Out and Security Concerns
Activist/Attorney Audrey Matura has weighed in on the perceived sick-out by the prosecutors. She noted that the stresses of the job as a prosecutor should not be underestimated, and that urgent attention needs to be placed on the personal security of the crown counsels. She says this is even more so due to the level of crimes now being carried out in Belize.
Audrey Matura, Attorney: “There are three divisions in the criminal courts. There’s the central, the northern and the southern. In each one of those there are prosecutors so that means all those courts are not able to perform without them. But the work load is there and because of the nature of the cases, because of the audacity of the criminals, because of all the SOEs that make the criminals come up even more angry I do believe that the prosecutors, the crown counsels are more at risk. So their request for security, for police detail and security I think is reasonable. You know when I travel throughout the country and people ask us “does your prosecutor, does your DPP, do you attorneys do you all have special security.” and we say no they are flabbergasted because in other jurisdictions we’re at the point where those people who practice in the criminal field meaning attorneys who represent or bring cases in the criminal arena are more at risk. So I don’t think their request is unreasonable and I do not think that their request for an increased salary should be ignored. You need to understand that the request for an increased salary was sparked by the fact that the government has given a contract to a junior person, non Belizean attorney who has come from another jurisdiction, has no experience like these people who are prosecutors and crown counsels and not even one year out of law school and already getting a lucrative contract with a lot of other benefits. I mean I don’t want to go into it personally as to who the person is and why all of that but the thing is if you set a certain standard for someone who does not have the level of training then you’ve opened the door to say that others who have far more experience and training and are far more needed should likewise get an increased benefit.”
Matura goes on to say that this situation has placed a spotlight on how important the role of a prosecutor is. Matura once served as a prosecutor, and based her appeals to the government and the powers that be, on her personal experiences in the courtroom.
Audrey Matura, Attorney: “It is an area of dedication not everybody wants to be a crown counsel especially a prosecutor. It’s a special kind of beast of its own. Which the judges themselves would go do. It is you carrying the load for the state to prove a case in an environment where crimes have become far more heinous, crimes have become far more advanced, crimes and criminals have reached a high level of performance above before and the amount of cases and what you have to put into it is far more. So they’re in a class of themselves by themselves and I do believe that they need the incentive to stay because if they all leave they can go into private practice and what they will make is far more and one of the benefits you have when you are a crown counsel/prosecutors is that you know the other side of the coin. So when you come out as a defense attorney you’re far more effective that’s what I found in my personal experience. And I’ll tell you any other attorney who has performed at the office of the DPP and then comes out into this realm your performance level lis higher. Sometimes I even feel a sense of guilty why I don’t want to do so much defense of criminal matters because I already know the two sides and I already know where the weaknesses are in the cases. It has not changed, it has gotten weaker. It’s unjust what those prosecutors go through I’m telling you it’s unjust in terms of resources given to them, the assistance given to them, the continued training given to them and it’s not only them. They can be the best but they cannot perform at the level they should if the similar training performance initiatives salary is not given to the police officers who prepare the file that you go present. So let me tell you it’s a discussion that needs to be had if Belize really wants to use prosecution as a deterrence to crime.”