Government to present Criminal Code Amendment Bill to House on Friday

BMPOn Wednesday afternoon, our cameras camped outside the National Assembly, as the Constitution and Foreign Affairs Committee met for the final time, to discuss the Criminal Code Amendment Bill 2 of 2013. The board, which heard submissions from the Bar Association via its president Attorney Eamon Courtnay, , the DPP and attorney Audrey Matura Sheppard, met for some 5 1/2 hours. The meeting concluded around 9 o’clock, Wednesday night so we weren’t able to get commentary from the attendees. However, on Wednesday night, Chairman of the Committee, the Hon. Patrick Faber via his Facebook page posted the following, regarding the meeting:  “I believe we now have a very good bill to take back to the House on Friday. Thanks to all those who had previously sent in their concerns which were truly considered and in a good many instances contributed to changes in the bill. Thanks especially to those who constructively contributed to the process and believed that the committee would listen to their suggestions.” The committee members are Patrick Faber, Herman Longsworth, John Briceno, Dolores Balderamos and deputy members Mark King and Santino Castillo.  The Bill returns to the House of Representatives on Friday.

vlcsnap-2013-11-01-07h24m37s197Present at Wednesday’s meeting were representatives from the Office of the Solicitor General, including Michelle Daly, who has served as Deputy Sol. Gen. and has overseen the drafting of the Amendment Bill 2 to the Criminal Code. This morning, PlusNews has learned that Michelle Daly is no longer serving in the Office of the Solicitor General, as her contract has ended and consequently she is removed from the drafting team. Two junior drafters have taken over the project, working through Thursday to complete a job which Attorneys who presented say is next to impossible in such a short time.

As we’ve told you, the Bar Association of Belize, this week, noted that the Amendment Bill “raises concern.” The Bar penned an 8 page memo of legal opinion, which they presented yesterday at the committee meeting. PlusNews has obtained a copy of that document and will walk you through some of their recommendations. In a generalized observation, the Bar affirms  “The Bill also does not make for easy reading and there are grammatical and construction errors. obviously difficulties in the importing of certain Sections. In regards to the proposed modification to the characterization of rape, the Bar says “The definition of rape has been broadened and several new offences have been created. There seems to be a significant overlap and the rationale behind the introduction of this multiplicity of offences the mode of trial of these offences seems to be haphazard.” To another clause, the Bar asks “Is the new Section 46 meant to cover marital rape or is the intention to dispense with the offence? If the latter, why was Section 72 left untouched? Of even more significance is that by including intercourse per anum [by anus] in the provision relating to rape, the defense of consent will now be open to an accused, in circumstances in which the victim is above the age of 16.” Eyebrows were raised for Section A to 47J.” The Bar also raised concern of Amendment fashioning different modes of trial and different outcomes for one offense. The Amendment further seeks to redefine incest, the Bar points out “It has been broadened to include partners, step-parents and step-siblings. The punishment however, is a mere term of imprisonment of 2 years. Under the original Section, the punishment is 7 years, or a minimum of 12 years, if the victim is proved to be under the age of fourteen years and her age is stated in the charge. Of particular note is the inclusion of “parent’s partner” and its definition – “another person with whom a person lives in as a family”. (The word “in” should be deleted.) One possible interpretation is that the term is meant to refer to same sex unions.” The association is furthermore concerned with a notable decrease in the sentence for other serious offences, such as kidnapping. And more than that, pointed to a serious grammatical oversight, one clause mistakenly refers to abduction as abandonment – two  entirely different terms. The drafting team met on Thursday to finalize the Bill.

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