Office of the Prime Minister Responds to Attacks on Justice Awich Print E-mail
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Written by The Guardian   
Thursday, 26 June 2014 14:57

Belmopan. June 24, 2014. The Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) has noted with concern the continued attacks by some lawyers on Justice of Appeal Mr. Samuel Awich. These attacks, using the Belize Bar Association Resolution as their springboard, are contemptuous and contemptible. They seek to scandalize the Belize Court of Appeal by alleging bias on the part of a member of that court, and may well be actionable by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Indeed, even from the English common law, it is considered contempt to “prejudice mankind [by speech or writing] in favour of or against a party before the case is heard” and the same principle is reflected in the laws of Belize where it is stated to be an offence to write or do anything “with intent to excite any popular prejudice for or against any party to [court] proceedings.” And there are cases pending before the Courts having to do with both (a) the acquisition of BTL and BEL (which case is definitely not at an end) and (b) the Bar Association against the Government of Belize on amendments to the Constitution on appointment of Judges of the Court of Appeal.

It is therefore especially concerning that the campaign is being led by persons with obvious interests to serve, namely Bar President Eamon Courtenay, Jacqueline Marshalleck and her husband Andrew Marshalleck. Mr. Courtenay represents the Ashcroft interests generally; and particularly in the litigation between those interests and the Government and people of Belize. It is that very litigation that recently concluded with the decision in favour of GOB, thus provoking the ire of the Ashcroft privies, especially because the leading judgment was written by Justice Awich. Apart from Courtenay and his role as counsel, Mrs. Marshalleck is a lawyer in the permanent employ of the Ashcroft holding group headquartered in Belize. They speak of the “appearance of bias.” Then, what does this appear to be on their part?

The OPM makes the point that these same players have attacked Mr. Justice Awich before, and have taken their arguments about the propriety of his appointment all the way to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). That highest court found their position utterly baseless and wrong.

Of course, the cover of the Bar Resolution is much resorted to by those acting on instruction and with malice aforethought. But it is important to point out that a grand total of 18 Bar members attended the meeting that approved the Resolution, when the actual membership of the Bar is well in excess of 100. Also noteworthy is the fact that there was no vote on the Resolution. It was declared adopted by consensus after the efforts of some present to water down and essentially change it, had failed. It is also a lie to claim that the law partner of the Prime Minister supported the Resolution since he was not even present at the meeting.

The OPM calls on all involved to desist from the continuing attacks on Mr. Justice Awich and the Court of Appeal. His new appointment is now fait accompli. And since it is for seven years, there can be no quarrel that it is short term and not in accordance with security of tenure considerations.

Finally, the OPM advises that Cabinet will actively consider a course of action that will address the situation in which a puny, eighteen-person minority can purport to speak in the name of all lawyers in Belize.