The case of Rhett Fuller has made for compelling television at times, and while he will never get those years back, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington, who is also Attorney General, says they will do something with the archaic English-based law which dates back to 1870.
“All our laws are English in origin, even the ones of today. It is because the common-law system is the same. They might have derogations. The only the major distinction between theirs and ours is that many of theirs are more up to date versions. We tend to be slow. But I do know there are measures half foot to enhance the extradition into a distant weak here, make it more efficient; I do know that there are moves and efforts to strengthen, to also strengthen the DPP department. We need to make our judiciary more efficient. The judiciary is vital, because that is the thing that keeps this society sound; that is what gives confidence with people and makes them feel safe. You can come to Belize and you are subject of any criminal and you get attacked, you can go to the court and get justice”.
As for the extradition process, which has seen numerous cases in recent years, the A.G. acknowledged the overwhelming of the Judiciary by eager attorneys and a cumbersome system which he says needs to be streamlined.
Hon. Wilfred Elrington: “That will take a strengthening of our judiciary. Every part of the world it seems that the lawyers find a way to make the course work really slowly. Courts need to work swiftly and efficiently, but for that, you have to have people who work very, very hard and who are very smart people- people who work very conscientious. It is only when you have that combination of people that you can move through the courts expeditiously. But even when you have that combination of people, the lawyers now do everything in their power (it seems to me, and I am one of them) to delay the process”.
Hon. Wilfred Elrington: “We have top get the necessary support systems in the judiciary to be able to move the cases much more swiftly. We need more people at the Supreme Court to assist the judges in the work that judges don’t have to do from other administrative nature. We get young people to work with them to help judges to do their research, to write their judgment, because this is done in more developed countries like in the United States or the United Kingdom, apart from the fact that the judges are some of the brightest and the best of the world because they can pay them well. Here, we can’t pay them as well. So, the best and the brightest are not sitting in the judiciary. They are generally in private practice where they make a lot of money and nobody wants to give that out”.
The Supreme Court is presently down to a complement of seven judges including the Chief Justice, with only four in the Civil Division, soon to be reduced to three, and three in the Criminal Division, before Antoinette Moore joins temporarily starting on Friday.