Constitution and Foreign Affairs Committee Discusses Criminal Justice Bills in Belmopan Session

Constitution and Foreign Affairs Committee Discusses Criminal Justice Bills in Belmopan Session

The Constitution and Foreign Affairs Committee met this afternoon in Belmopan to discuss three Bills, namely, the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) Bill 2024; the Alternative Sentencing Bill 2024, and the Criminal Procedure (Plea Discussion and Plea Agreement) Bill 2024.  At the opening of the session the Attorney General, Anthony Sylvestre summarized the bills for the committee, and in the end, no objections were presented.  Committee Member, Julius Espat, who noted that the opposition did not attend the session, explained the key points of the three bills.

Julius Espat, Constitution and Foreign Affairs Committee: “The CEO from the prison was here. We had two attorneys from the Attorney General’s ministry, all members from government was there, no member from the opposition was present. I opened the floor and asked if they had any questions or recommendations and so there was no objection and we agreed that it should go back to the House with no changes. It’s a basic idea is that you have some people with minor criminal offenses that are affected in society. The CEO from prison gave an example of a Mr.Dawson that was representing Belize when it pertains to rehabilitation of prisoners and he couldn’t get a visa because he had a conviction for a minor offense fourteen years ago. And so it’s things like that that we’re trying to do to not have our youths, because most of the time it’s the young people of Belize that do a small offense, sometimes it’s just a fine and it is on their police record. So a period of time has been set and after that period of time then it’s taken off. The courts decide that. You have various requirements that are tabled, community service, there’s a long list which I don’t precisely remember right now but it gives alternative means instead of going to prison you can do other things to be able to serve the time that is necessary. Right now what happens if you can’t pay a fine you go to jail and sometimes it’s a minimal fine it’s a $100 and you end up spending a week or two in jail and what we’re seeing is that that experience of even a day in jail can be life altering. And so we want to give people an opportunity for minor offenses.”

The meeting was held in the National Assembly conference room./

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