The primary objective of the Indictable Procedure (Amendment) Act is to provide for a trial without a jury in certain criminal cases (eg, in the case of murder and attempted murder). No appeal can lie against an order of the judge granting or refusing an application for a trial to be conducted without a jury. The Juries (Amendment) Act furthers the objective of the Indictable Procedure (Amendment) Act.
The proposed Ninth Constitutional Amendment must be looked at in the context of Belize's socio-economic realities. It seeks to accomplish one primary objective: to entrench nationalisation of certain utilities – in particular, Telemedia and Belize Electricity Limited. Although nationalisation may be desirable from a protectionist approach, will it ultimately produce wealth for the nation of Belize?
The Supreme Court has granted a declaration that the magistrate had erred in law and acted beyond the scope of the Income and Business Tax Act in ordering a taxpayer to pay taxes admittedly due "in default committal". The court found that it was not proved to the satisfaction of the magistrate – as required by the act – that the taxpayer had the means to pay the sum ordered.
The Supreme Court of Judicature (Amendment) Act No 7 of 2011 provides that an appeal against the decision of a magistrate shall not operate as an automatic stay of execution of the decision under appeal. The amendment specifically amends Section 112 of the principal act, which previously made provision for the execution of the decision under appeal from the inferior court to be suspended until determination or abandonment of the appeal once the appellant had given notice of and security for the appeal.
The government recently introduced the Constitution (Ninth Amendment) Bill in the House of Representatives, which proposes far-reaching changes to the Constitution. Since its introduction, the bill has been the subject of widespread discussion and analysis because it would affect both the ownership of public utilities and the rights of the judiciary.
The Belize government has nationalised Belize Electricity Limited (BEL), the major supplier of electricity to the Belizean public. When presenting the bill concerning BEL's nationalisation in the National Assembly, the prime minister said that the reason for nationalising BEL was to prevent Belize from being plunged into rolling blackouts.
The government has entered into several production sharing agreements with different contractors pursuant to the Petroleum Act. Each contractor is authorised to conduct petroleum explorations as defined by the act, within a designated area defined by the relevant agreement. However, the owner of the land which is the subject of an agreement retains certain rights in relation to the conduct of petroleum operations on and under such land.
In the 1980s and 1990s Belize privatised its state-owned utilities. The underlying rationale behind the privatisation varied from seeking to stem the losses caused by ailing state enterprises to selling the state assets in order to generate much-needed government income. The process started with the privatisation of the state-owned telecommunications monopoly, followed by the state-owned electricity monopoly and finally the state-owned water company. The results have been mixed.
The Court of Appeal recently handed down a decision in an employment dispute which appears contrary to long-established principles of the Trade Unions and Employers' Organisations (Registration, Recognition and Status) Act, which provide that a person cannot be awarded damages for injury to feelings. The employer, Mayan King, has been given leave to appeal the decision to the Caribbean Court of Justice.
The Court of Appeal recently delivered its decision in Vidrine v Vidrine - a significant addition to the jurisprudence of Belize relating to the division of matrimonial property. Justice of Appeal Denys Barrow considered the principles in actions brought pursuant to Section 148A(3) of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act, which empowers the Supreme Court to alter property rights during divorce proceedings.
Following the nationalisation of government-owned Belize Telemedia Limited in August 2009, Telemedia engaged in behaviour towards its competitor Speednet Communications Limited which Speednet alleged was intended to jeopardise its ability to provide mobile telecommunications services to the Belizean public. However, the Supreme Court ruled that Telemedia was not dominant in the mobile market and refused the declaration sought.
The Labour (Amendment) Act will make significant changes to the law relating to employer/employee relationships in Belize. While some of the changes are not as extensive as originally drafted and therefore unsatisfactory to the unions, they have still caused concern among employers which are already facing challenges in keeping their businesses afloat. This update summarises the main changes introduced by the amended act.
In a curious recent case, the Court of Appeal decided that the Supreme Court had no jurisdiction to oversee a case brought by Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) against the Public Utilities Commission. In the case, BEL brought three questions before the Supreme Court by a so-called 'case stated'.
The Income and Business Tax (Amendment (No 2)) Act 2010 was approved by the governor general at the end of 2010. The amendment introduced two significant changes to the Income and Business Tax Act as it relates to income tax. The first amendment provides further tax relief to employed persons who earn no more than $29,000 a year. The second relates to Section 108(1) of the principal act, which sets forth income which is exempt from tax.