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Belize Takes Action on Criminal Justice Reform: A Step Forward

In a recent development, the Chief Justice of Belize, Honourable Mde. Louise Esther Blenman, has announced significant progress in response to the Caribbean Court of Justice (C.C.J.) Academy for Law's recommendations. These recommendations, encapsulated in the "Needham Point Declaration on Criminal Justice Reform: Achieving A Modern Criminal Justice System," aim to address the backlog in Belize's criminal justice system.

To tackle this issue, Belize has established the Criminal Justice Board, chaired by Chief Justice Blenman. This board brings together various stakeholders, including judges, magistrates, lawyers, law enforcement, and representatives from civil society. By taking an inclusive approach, the board ensures comprehensive efforts to address challenges and improve efficiency.

In line with the Needham Point Declaration, the Criminal Justice Board has formed nine sub-committees, each focused on specific aspects contributing to delays in the system. These sub-committees have identified key issues and proposed targeted solutions to bring about meaningful change.

Recent reports from these sub-committees emphasize the importance of ongoing training for all sectors of the Criminal Justice System. They also recommend legislative reforms, technological upgrades, and organizational changes to streamline processes and reduce backlogs.

Exciting initiatives are already underway, such as the development of Sentencing Guidelines and the pilot of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms in criminal matters. Additionally, the enactment of the Criminal Procedure (Plea Discussion and Plea Agreement) Act 2024 is scheduled for June 3, 2024.

To prepare stakeholders for these changes, the Judicial Education Institute of the Senior Courts of Belize is hosting virtual training sessions on essential topics like case management systems and e-litigation.

Looking ahead, the Institute is gearing up for a landmark event – the first-ever Conference on Criminal Justice Reform. Scheduled from September 2nd to September 6th, 2024, this conference aims to foster collaboration among stakeholders, reduce backlogs, and provide training to key personnel. Renowned experts from the Caribbean and the Commonwealth will lead sessions, marking a significant step forward in Belize's efforts towards a modern and efficient criminal justice system.


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