30 year-old Nelson Henry, who is charged for the murder of Edward Lord Junior, has received bail after six years on remand. His case went on trial on September 14 before Justice Adolph Lucas. Henry’s attorney, Oscar Selgado, made an application before Justice Adolph Lucas on two constitutionally supported grounds and succeeded.
Oscar Selgado – Attorney
“Firstly under section 5 5 of the Belize Constitution he is entitled to bail. Section 5 says that where a person is charged criminally and he is not afforded a fair trial within a reasonable time he is to be released on bail on conditions that are deemed fit by the court and section 5 does not limit what offences are bailable and not available. Section 5 is open to all offences in Belize including murder. But I relied also on section 6 (2) of the Belize constitution which provides that when a person is charged with any offence in Belize he is to be afforded a fair trial by an impartial and independent court established by law within a reasonable time and the time that is considered reasonable would be from the date of arrest so in this instance Nelson Henry was arrested and charged on the 16th of July 2011 and he was not indicted until 2013, two years aftewards and that was unacceptable, that is an inordinate delay. It cannot be that the DPP’s office and all its staff will take two years to indict a man that is an injustice and then after the indictment would come the PI and the trial. In this case Nelson Henry did not go before the Supreme Court until after 2014 and the court had been making adjournments since. In this year in June of this year the matter came up for trial and on several occasions- I think only twice has the main witness for the crown appeared to testify and on both occasions she either remained mute or barely made comments to the fact that she could not recall what her evidence was to the police in her deposition and so she became sort of hostile and this then put the prosecution of uncertainty as to when the case would be able to proceed. This again is a breach to the constitutional guarantee to a fair trial within a reasonable time and I used two cases coming out of the CCJ.”
Selgado said that the state was unable to give reason as to why the detention must continue except to say that the crime was a serious one and that Nelson Henry was a flight risk. In his ruling Justice Lucas said that the case is not a complicated one and it hinges on the evidence of Catherine Perteau, the alleged eye witness, who has made herself unavailable. He said the Constitution gives the right to an accused to be granted bail when he is not tried within a reasonable time.
Oscar Selgado – Attorney
“I must say that it is a step forward that the court today has demonstrated that the administration of justice is meted out without fear or favor and that henceforth all other people held incarcerated at Kolbe for murder and are inordinately delayed in their trial will be entitled to bail and this case sets the precedence in Belize for that so that it is one of the landmark cases now where bail is granted to persons accused of murder. Because the constitution also entrenches the fundamental principle of innocence until proven guilty- the presumption of innocence. So even though the allegation is a serious allegation the man is innocent until proven guilty and I am proud of the decision by the Supreme Court of Belize.”
But the ruling may set a precedent that prosecution witnesses may be in further danger. Selgado addressed the concern.
Oscar Selgado – Attorney
“The courts are very cognisant of such reality and that is why the court imposes conditions that the petitioner should not interfere with any of the prosecution’s witnesses or potential witnesses either by themselves or through a third party or through any electronic means; Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter in any manner and once it is proved that the petitioner breaches any of those conditions bail is liable to be revoked, bail will be revoked by the Supreme Court once those conditions have been proved to have been breached by the petitioner.”
The bail was granted on the condition that Henry does not interfere with any of the Crown’s witnesses, particularly the main witness, Catherine Perteau; that he remains at his place of abode between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., effective today, September 22; that he reports to Queen Street Police Station every two days; and that he attends the Supreme Court on October 4, 2017 and on any other day he is told to do so until the charge of murder is disposed of. Lord, who was freed of the murder of George “Junie Balls” Mckenzie, was gunned down on June 29, 2011, in front of Brick City on Mahogany Street. Henry becomes the fourth person charged with murder who was granted bail. The first person was 74 year old Hubert Neal, who was charged with the murder of his son. In 1977 Sir Denis Malone, who was the Chief Justice at the time, offered Neal bail. Neal was represented by Court of Appeal President Manuel Sosa, who was a practicing attorney at the time. The second person was a police constable, Jesus Marroquin, who was charged with the murder of Egbert Arnold. In December 2006, Marroquin was granted bail by Justice John Gonzalez. The third person was Manuel Teck Cucul, an 81 year old man, who was charged with the murder of his wife. Cucul was granted bail in 2012.