Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Belize to clear backlog of criminal cases through PACE Justice Program

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The Government of Belize has become part of a regional program known as the Partnership of the Caribbean and European Union on Justice (PACE Justice) to eliminate its backlogs of criminal cases. The new system will use software and awareness interventions to address the causes of the backlog. The other countries participating include Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Guyana, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Trinidad and Tobago.
The PACE Justice Program seeks to revolutionize the judiciary in the region significantly. It was launched in Barbados on October 17th through a 10 million Euro grant. It is a joint effort within The Delegation of the European Union to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean States, and the United Nations Development Programme.
Before the launch of PACE Justice, it was discussed that the cause of the backlogs in the Caribbean justice system was due to limited human and technological resources. This deficit has led to increased incarceration rates, particularly among males aged 18-35. These young prisoners remain detained for extended periods without an opportunity for a trial. This issue has also led to outdated police data systems, manual evidence management, and witness intimidation, impacting women and gender-based violence victims.
PACE Justice aims to enhance the abilities of Caribbean police prosecutors, lawyers, courts, and prisoners to manage criminal cases effectively. To achieve such a goal, those behind the initiative will rely on key strategies involving integrating advanced software, hardware, training modules, procedural reforms, capacity development, and community awareness programs. The PACE Justice program will seek to reduce the current backlogs and prevent future ones.
Barbados’ Attorney General Honourable Dale Marshall deemed the program’s launch urgent. He said that while the participating countries have different cultures and experiences, they are plagued by a backlog in their judiciary system.
During the program’s unveiling, Belize was represented by Chief Justice Her Ladyship, Honourable Louise Blenman, Minister of Home Affairs the Honourable Kareem Musa, and former Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin. The monumental event was also attended by Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Francis Cumberbatch, High Court Judge the Honourable Justice Nigel Pilgrim, and Attorney General Anthony Sylvestre. The attorney general expressed the gratitude of the Belizean people for the opportunity of such a partnership and to be part of the PACE Justice Program.
The PACE Justice Program will conclude in March 2027, and by then, the beneficiary countries are expected to reach their targets in backlog reduction. The program also expects participants to strengthen their criminal justice sector, resulting in improved access to justice and public confidence in the judicial system. The program’s expectations call for a decline in human rights violations and an increase in adherence to the rule of law.

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