State of Emergency Extension Uncertain Amid Gang Conviction Challenges

State of Emergency Extension Uncertain Amid Gang Conviction Challenges

The Commissioner of Police Chester Williams has expanded the State of Emergency to include the St. Martin’s Area, but will he be able to extend it? The current SOE regulations, under which dozens of alleged gang members were sent to prison, end in ten days. However, Williams says that police have not been able to make much progress in bringing gang charges against the men that will stick. Yesterday, he was asked if his minister will move to extend the SOE and explained that the department has had difficulty in the past convicting men for gang affiliation under the current legislation. 

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police: “I am not sure at this time but I wish that it would be extended. I do believe that there is still more that we need to do in terms of carrying out our necessary investigation against these gang members to see what we can to do put some of them away for a very long time. I believe that some of these young men, as much as we are trying with them they don’t want to change and the society is suffering for it and we must do what we can to ensure that we send the right message to them that it’s either they change or they spend longer time in prison. So the GI3 is extremely busy trying to put together cases against them but it’s not easy to develop gang cases, the amount of things that the police needs would have to prove is extremely hard. You saw how the case with the Meighan brothers played out, once which I’m still not happy about. I still don’t understand the rationale behind the acquittal. I don’t think that the law was intended that one person must commit some heinous act before you determine that they are a gang member. I think the act, the spirit of the act was designed in such a way that if you have a person who is a gang member the act is designed to make sure that we stop that person in his her track from furthering their activities as gang members and not for us to wait until the person commits a major offense to determine that he or she is a gang member. So we’re still trying to see what we can do to be able to cure the defect of that particular case with the Meighann brothers.”

And Williams isn’t the only one who’s uncertain. Today, Minister of Home Affairs Kareem Musa weighed in on the possibility of extending the SOE but did not state whether it will happen or not.  

Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs: “Those are discussions that we are currently having at the Cabinet level and you will know soon enough whether that decision will be made but I will not disclose that at this time. So if it is that you are going to be charging any of the individuals for instance the particular SOE if you look at it has had great success in that it flushed out the actors from PIV that took all of their stash to an island and so we were able to flush them out and identify all of these high powered weapons and take them off the streets saving many lives and so those individuals will be charged. The investigation in relation to the two murders those are ongoing whether there is an SOE or not those investigations will continue.”

If the SOE is extended, the men will serve an additional thirty days at the Belize Central Prison.

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