Court of Appeals upholds Supreme Court Judgement on ACES case Print E-mail
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Thursday, 26 June 2014 00:00

aces.jpg - 45.53 KbThe Court of Appeal has ruled that the Government of Belize is liable for damages to American Couple Vince and Cherie Chenot-Rose because the Police Department did not do enough to protect their property in Toledo when a mob of Mayan Villagers burnt it to the ground.

Readers may remember that on August 30, 2010, 8 year-old Benjamin Rash, and his 11 year-old sister, Onelia, went missing from their village in San Marcos, Toledo. They were selling fruits, and they were last seen in the Toledo District. After they went missing, the entire village joined the Rash family in the search to find them, and a few days later, a “witch doctor” Delfina Alvarez gave them information that they were at the Rose property.

Up until September 5, 2010, the Rose couple, who are biologists and wildlife behaviourists, built and managed a sanctuary for problem crocodiles caught all over the country. This wildlife conservation post was called the American Crocodile Education Sanctuary (ACES), and it was located at Forest Home Village, Toledo – just outside of Punta Gorda Town.

On September 5, approximately 100 armed Mayans from San Marcos went to the Police Station and demanded that officers accompany them to the property to search for the missing children. The police informed them that they would meet them at the location at a later time. They arrived by bus, and a small group went unto the ACES compound and lit it on fire.

Witnesses testified in the Supreme Court case that they saw the mob going to the compound. A small group trespassed, and immediately afterwards, gunshots were heard, smoke was seen, and the entire compound went up in flames. In August of 2012, Justice Oswel Legall ruled that Government was liable to pay the Rose couple damages under the Riot Compensation Act.

The Government appealed that decision, and on Monday, June 23, the Appeals Court heard their case. Lead attorney for Government was Trienia Young, a Crown Counsel from the Solicitor General’s Office.

She appealed on the grounds that Justice Legall erred in law and in fact when he ruled that Rose should be compensated. She submitted that all the evidence that Justice Legall depended on was circumstantial, and it was never established by eyewitnesses that indeed 5 persons set the property on fire. According to the Riot Compensation Act, 5 persons or more must be found to have destroyed property for it to be considered a riot under law. She also argued that other people could have been the arsonists, and not these Mayans.

After hearing from the attorney for the Rose Couple, Andrea McSweeney-McKoy, the Court of Appeals panel of judges dismissed the appeal and upheld the Government’s liability, as found by Justice Legall. Both sides must now go back to the Supreme Court to decide how much money they are entitled to in compensation. The Rose Couple, in their original lawsuit, were claiming $907,380.71 Belizean Currency. At that second trial, the court will decide how much they should be paid after hearing from both sides.

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 June 2014 15:49