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Senators Move to Amend the Court of Appeal Bill

And finally from the Senate today, the Court of Appeal Bill was amended. The amendment allows for the expansion of the composition of the Court of Appeal. The purpose is to higher more Appeal Court Justices to assist in the backlog of cases and prevent delay of cases. While the bill was general supported, Opposition Senators Sheena Pitts and Michael Peyrefitte expressed some concerns.

Hon. Sheena Pitts, United Democratic Party (UDP) :”This bill is a bill that is much needed. I wonder if on the other side apart or in addition to having simultaneous sittings with six judges we can go even further to consider having a full time Court of Appeal as is the case in other jurisdictions in the Commonwealth. My only concern Madam President is that we invite into our territory on the basis of the best available legal minds.”

Hon. Michael Peyrefitte, United Democratic Party (UDP): “The flaw with the laws that existed before was that it said you should have the president and four. Unfortunately there was a ceiling but fortunately at least there was floor, four. When you replace four with such I mean it’s kinda crazy to contemplate but you wouldn’t even want to contemplate it in my view couldn’t we have a proviso or something to indicate that you have the president and such others provided you will have no less than four for example. Because the way you read it here when you replace with such is that you could have ten if you want but if you put such then you could also have one which is clearly not the intent of the amendment but I think if you have a proviso to just make sure that you have a minimum in mind and that you can have such others that could go way beyond that minimum but not below.”

Hon. Eamon Courtenay, Leader of Government Business and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade & Immigration), People’s United Party (PUP): “I think we can be confident first of all that the bill has a title and it says to Expand the Composition of the Court of Appeal and therefore any interpretation will be in that context that it was intended to expand. With respect to the floor all I will say is that any government that seeks to reduce the number of judges in the Court of Appeal below the current four and if the six are appointed below the then six they will be the subject of the wrath of the people of Belize and the legal profession led I am sure by Senator Pitts.”