Belize is a country with a low conviction rate for murder and has been pegged as one of the top five most murderous countries per capita on the planet. Amendments were made in 2017 to the Laws of Belize. Outspoken Attorney Audrey Matura spoke to love news on the amendments made which grants parole for convicted murderers.
Audrey Matura Shepherd: “Before once you got sentenced for life imprisonment you stay here forever but two major changes happen. It says that person who commits a murder while under the age of 18 so considered a minor by law can no longer be serving a death sentence or an imprisonment for life but they should be there at the pleasure of the court. The other big change is that when you are convicted for murder now and you are sentenced the judge must put a limit and this is the interesting part because it says when a court sentences a person to imprisonment for life in subsection 1 the court shall meaning it must specify a minimum term which the offenders shall serve before he can be released on parole in accordance with the statutory provisions for parole and then this section tells you about how you can get parole so there are two major changes now in terms of sentencing for murder and while the society may be clamoring “oh hang them and convict them” while they don’t realize that conviction rates are already low and conviction rates for murder is very low so on one hand the few you get to convict and now the same law now allows them to be released on parole and I see a conflict there and it’s matter that I don’t think was properly debated I believe and this is my personal opinion that parole is for a society where the conviction rate is so high and you don’t want to have an overpopulated prisons so you are making sure those who have committed the less heinous crimes can be out on parole so you can clog up the system. The minor offenses and so but what we have done is now given parole to those who commit the worst offenses as well.”
The changes in laws have done little to quell the violence and the cries for justice. In July, 2017 Bert Vasquez was convicted of forcible abduction and indecent assault. Justice Adolph Lucas noted that the maximum sentence for forcible abduction is 13 years in prison. Justice Lucas sentenced him to 10 years in jail. In the case of the conviction for aggravated assault of an indecent nature, the judge gave him the maximum of 3 years. Vasquez who is also awaiting trial for the murder of Jasmine Lowe, has been remanded since 2012 which means he has spent more than half his convicted time at the Belize Central Prison. During our interview with Audrey Matura about the 2017 amendments to the parole system, we didn’t ask her about the Vasquez case but about how much time convicted rapists could spend before applying for parole.