7 News Belize

7 News Belize HeadlinesThursday, July 24, 2014

Private Prosecution Against Penner Thrown Out!
In March of this year, Elvin Penner made national headlines when he became the first elected area representative to be criminally charged for official wrongdoing during the tenure of his o...
Did The State Protect Hon Penner?
But if, you've been following the case, as we have, it may have crossed your mind that today's outcome couldn't have happened any other way. That's because all the police evidence needed w...
Where Is The Citizen Kim Passport?
One piece of evidence which surely didn't make it into the case today was the original passport which was issued to South Korean Won Hong Kim. Best information says the passport is in ...
Fire Leaves 4 Families Homeless, 3 Structures Destroyed
There were two house fires this morning in Belize City - and children playing with fire caused both of them. The more serious one happened at around 10:00 am on Plues and Berkely Stre...
Another Fire Set By Child
The first fire started an hour before that one - at around 9:15 am - and again, kids were the culprits. Luckily, it was a small fire, easily contained. Neighbors say it was started...
Kumul Charged For Common-Law’s Murder
38 year old mother of two, Anabel Kumul was charged for the murder of her common law husband today in San Pedro. She was arraigned and remanded about 30 hours after she allegedly stabbe...
Cop Charged For Extortion
She wasn't the only one San Pedro police took the court today - they also charged one of their own for extortion. Constable Elvin Nah was charged for extortion after an island resident co...
Hattieville Chairman Still Missing: Villagers Pray
Hattieville Chairman Kevin Carcamo has been missing for 4 days now, and today the extensive searches to try to locate him continued. The seismic testing company that he was working for...
Quality Of Life Crime Crackdown Causes Court Congestion
On Monday we showed you just a sample of the vicious public backlash resulting from the police crackdown on so called quality of life crimes - those minor, always overlooked offences, such...
Man Busted For Bicycle Bell Carried Crack
But while many lampoon and lambaste the bicycle crackdown, yesterday, it led to a drug arrest. 45 year-old Stuart Smith was riding his bike contrary to the flow of traffic on Lizarraga...
And The PUP’s Candidate For Albert Is…
For months, there has been speculation about who will run for the PUP in the Albert division. There was supposed to have been a convention in May, and at the time three candidates submi...
Capital Police Still Looking For Stolen DOE Pickup
Last night, we told you about the Department of Environment Vehicle which was stolen in broad daylight yesterday from the busy market square in Belmopan. Today, investigators were no c...
Alleged Robber Remanded
23 year-old Francis Arana, a Lavender Street resident who has been on remand since Monday for Firearm offences, was brought back to court today for additional charges. He's believed to be ...
What To Do In Case Of Fire
There have been a rash of fires in the city recently - and apart from the massive loss of property - since May, two lives have been lost. But what should or can you do in the event tha...
Artist Releases “Presshah”
Freddy Bencomo a 39 year old Belizean artist is making his debut tomorrow night at the Image Factory. He has been painting from about 2002, but has lacked the confidence to display his work ...
City Closes Summer Camp
The Belize City Council today closed its summer camp. It happened at the Skills Center on Magazine Road and Councilor Alain Gonzalez told us what the camp focused on: And while at...
Belize Triathlete Fails To Finish Swim
Today, the 20th Commonwealth Games began in Scotland with 6 events, one of which was the Triathlon. Belize's only Tri-athlete, the defending Lion Man Champion, Kent Bob Gabourel competed a...
BCVI Gets Major Boost
This morning the Belize Council for the Visually Impaired received a generous donation from the Lions Club International Foundation. There was a handing over of a 2 story addition for th...
Will Belize Accede To Munitions?
Belize may soon become the 85th country to accede to the convention on cluster munitions. Now, you're probably asking, why is this news since Belize has nothing to do with cluster munitions...
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7 News Belize - News:
Important Note: This Internet version of 7 News is a verbatum transcript of our evening television news script. Many interviews on our newscast are conducted in Creole. In the interest of clarity for our foreign readers, we attempt to paraphrase the Creole quotes in English

Private Prosecution Against Penner Thrown Out!

In March of this year, Elvin Penner made national headlines when he became the first elected area representative to be criminally charged for official wrongdoing during the tenure of his own Government. Tonight, however, he's at home with his family, and he has been cleared of all charges brought against him.

As has been widely reported, he was implicated as the chief arranger in the issuance of the passport and nationality certificate of South Korean Won Hong Kim. Still, police never criminally charged him - and only launched a criminal investigation after the Supreme Court told them to do so.

And when the police didn't charge him, COLA did launching a private prosecution against Penner. But, the private prosecution was short of a critical element, first hand evidence.

And so, after only 4 short adjournments the case was struck out of court today. 7News was there in Belmopan when the disgraced former minister was acquitted and Daniel Ortiz reports:

Daniel Ortiz reporting
After 4 short adjournments, Former Minister of State Elvin Penner walked out of court a free man. The two immigration offences, brought against him by COLA's Geovannie Brackett and Nedal McLaren were thrown out.

The case went nowhere, really, because COLA couldn't produce any evidence against him. He also walked silently past the awaiting media, entered his vehicle, and he and his family drove away to the jeers and angry words from COLA's supporters. Foretold and expected, yet COLA made sure to remind everyone that they did what they could with the material they had.

Geovannie Brackett, President - COLA
"Most people didn't even believe that Penner would have shown up to court much less couple months later were back and forth in court. I know that it has been struck out here on the first trial day and yes, it is a sense of disappointment, but I think what that really does say the decision and the whole scenario from start to finish - what I think it does is a bigger discouragement to the people of Belize because we've seen how justice has been denied by every entity in coming here to try to get a fair trial against Mr. Penner. Mr. Penner - the case might have struck out today, but that isn't evidence that in the court of public opinion he is not guilty."

Kareem Musa, Attorney for COLA
"Mr. Brackett was able to take the stand to testify against Mr. Penner and basically what we did is that we lay the foundation putting it in a historical context of what has transpired so far starting firstly with the order of the Supreme Court in relation to the Commissioner of Police ordering him by way of writ of mandamus to do his job, to carry out his duties and investigate this matter. So we started with that premise and we then built up on the foundation thereafter showing the correspondence that we have made several attempts, not just one, but several attempts to the Commissioner of Police to try to obtain the investigative file, but of course it has ended up in futility as our head, our titular head of the judiciary. The Attorney General should be ashamed of himself, he is the titular head of this country when it comes to the judiciary. It is a disgrace to have a system where the system is not looking out for the interest of this nation - It is not. What happened after Mr. Brackett laid the foundation we then made an application pursuant to section 30 and I don't think that there is any clearer law that exists that shows that in fact the Commissioner of Police ought to have been summoned to come to court today."

COLA and its attorney stressed that in their view, the State used certain offices to frustrate their case by denying them evidence. They take that to mean that the Government doesn't want Penner successfully prosecuted.

And while that belief is strongly held, it didn't count for much in court, and the private prosecution failed. Musa says that an appeal is in order.

Kareem Musa, Attorney for COLA
"I know that the learned magistrate has given a ruling. I must say right off the bat that I wholeheartedly disagree with her ruling. She said that I believe the magistrate said that we needed to summon the Commissioner. That is an entirely different section of the law. The particular application that we made was under section 30 which states that: "On the statement of the complainant it comes to light that there are individuals in possession of files, of documents," she the magistrate, then has to exercise her discretion whether or not she would want that individual to come to court. So it's an entirely different section of the law and frankly speaking, I have advise my client right after the case that I think it's a good case for an appeal."


Did The State Protect Hon Penner?

But if, you've been following the case, as we have, it may have crossed your mind that today's outcome couldn't have happened any other way. That's because all the police evidence needed was being kept out of COLA's reach - and according to the expert in prosecutions - the DPP -from what she had seen of that there wasn't enough to bring a charge.

Currently, their case file for the Citizen Kim passport is still within the Department, and the official line at this time is that the case is still under investigation.

But, COLA lays blame at the feet of the Commissioner of Police for the failure of the private prosecution. How do they get to that conclusion? That's just what Daniel Ortiz tried to find out:

Daniel Ortiz reporting
In the days leading up to today's hearing, Attorney General Wilfred Elrington gave an interview to the press in which he spoke candidly about what he saw as the impending failure of today's case. Those remarks incensed those within the COLA ranks.

Hon. Wilfred Elrington - Attorney General
"You can't say alright I am going to do it and then turn around and say to the DPP to help me please, turn to the police and say help me please. You say you could do it - do it. I can say to the public, the people of Belize that really and truly it's an exercise in futility - you are not going to get anywhere with that. You are wasting the people's time and really seeking to mislead people to my mind."

Reporter
"So the Prime Minister just wanted COLA to waste its time?"

Hon. Wilfred Elrington - Attorney General
"No, I don't think the Prime Minister encourage them to do it at all. As a matter of fact the Prime Minister has been saying to them that it's the responsibility of the DPP. But the DPP is saying she doesn't have the evidence. What do you want her to do? COLA obviously did not believe that and lead people to believe that they can get the evidence and they can do... for those of us who has been in law for as long as I have known that from the beginning that is not going to get anywhere."

Geovannie Brackett, President - COLA
"The Attorney General in my view seems delusional. When you will brag that this exercise is a matter one of futility. In certain scenarios you can use that term, but when you have the Commissioner of Police who had to be dragged to court to carry out and conclude an investigation and yet have it concluded that investigation when the DPP has written to the police to say basically give up what you have so far to COLA or at least to her and they refused to do so. When you have other entities, when you have other ministers in government coming out in the media to announce the innocence of Elvin Penner and you try to brag and say that this is just a matter of futility. What he should have done is look himself in the mirror and use the same artificial statement because what we have is an artificial government. What we have is an artificial system."

Harsh words vs advice from the voice of experience, but COLA isn't interpreting that way. As far as they know they went looking for help from the upholders of the law, but all they got were "no's."

Hon. Wilfred Elrington - Attorney General
"Is it not that there is a big conspiracy not to take this matter to court. To my mind the Prime Minister has done all that he could do."

FILE: July 16, 2014
Daniel Ortiz

"At this current moment sir, the issue with the attorney, they are suggesting that your continual refusal to release this file is some way to proof positive that the state is trying to bury the evidence against Mr. Penner. How do you respond to that?"

Allen Whylie - Commissioner of Police
"Man, I think that is utter nonsense, and I think for the media to swallow or try to be regurgitating that is nonsense. I think the media should be given credit, the law is the law. I am here to uphold the law."

But COLA says that the Commissioner used a loophole in the Mandamus Order, which allowed him to stall until the case fell apart.?

FILE: July 16, 2014
Allen Whylie - Commissioner of Police
"I think that the letter quite clearly said that as long as there is an ongoing investigation the matter cannot be released because it would be prejudicial, and so until that investigation is concluded and the file sent back to the DPP, then we go from there, but I cannot break the law to please COLA."

Daniel Ortiz
"Can you tell us the law you would be breaking if that is indeed?"

Allen Whylie - Commissioner of Police
"I have already indicated that the regulation or the act is under the disclosure act, so if there is a continuing investigation or ongoing investigation would be prejudicial to release, so we are complying with the law, the attorney has not challenged that, that is the law."

Kareem Musa, Attorney for COLA
"The Supreme Court ordered the Commissioner of Police to carry out and conclude his investigation. I think that the Commissioner has been taking advantage of the fact that the Supreme Court didn't tell him conclude your investigation by July 24, he is taking advantage of that and I don't think he is out there investigating anything. You've heard him take statements from anyone recently - absolutely not, so I think that he is taking advantage of that fact. But certainly he does not have eternity. Eternity is not what has to go and carry out this investigation. At some point he has to deliver up that case file."

So, to recap today's hearing, Elvin Penner was charged under Section 22 of the Nationality Act, and Section 31H of the Passport Act, for the fraudulent passport and nationality certificate for South Korean Won Hong Kim.

Today was supposed to be the first day where the presiding Magistrate, Aretha Ford, would accept evidence from the prosecution against Elvin Penner. Instead, Private Prosecutor Kareem Musa made a Preliminary Application under the law to Summon Police Commissioner Allen Whylie. Musa was asking the court to order him to hand over the police investigation file into the passport scandal.

When Magistrate Ford asked him to justify why she should make such an order, he called Geovannie Brackett to the stand. Brackett, as we've told you, was one of the two men who charged Penner for the immigration offences. Brackett testified that the Supreme Court ordered Commissioner Whylie to carry out and complete an investigation against Elvin Penner. When Musa tried have Brackett tender that Mandamus Court Order into evidence, Penner's attorney, Ellis Arnold, objected on the grounds that only a Supreme Court Marshall or the Registrar of the Court can properly submit that document into evidence in the trial.

Brackett then continued his testimony that his attorney wrote to Commissioner Whylie requesting the file, but that the Commissioner denied the request. He was allowed to tender the COLA letter to Whylie and Whylie's response into evidence. He then testified that they made contact with Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryl-Lynn Vidal who responded by way of a letter saying that she doesn't see any basis to deny his request for disclosure. He was once again allowed to tender that letter from DPP Vidal into evidence in the case.

Musa and Brackett were seeking to lay out clearly that Whylie had no real purpose for refusing to disclose the file, and so Musa renewed his application that the court should order Commissioner Whylie to hand over the document.

At that point, Penner's attorney Ellis Arnold objected to Musa's application. He told the court that this application was proof that COLA and its attorney had abused the court's process against his client. He asked the court not to tolerate Musa's application because, according to Arnold, the prosecutor was now asking the court's help to get evidence against his client, which they claimed to have in their possession, and which they should have had before today's date. He also objected on the grounds that he has legal precedents which state clearly that in a private prosecution, the civilian entity is not entitled to the police file by rights under the law.

After taking a 15 minute adjournment, Magistrate Ford returned and denied Musa's application after she agreed with Arnold's submission that COLA was not legally entitled to the police file. She also explained that for her jurisdiction to be invoked in such a summons, the prosecution needed to have proven that Whylie was summoned to court, and that he refused to obey that first summons.

Because COLA and their attorney had no further evidence to place before the court, Magistrate Ford struck the case out for want of prosecution.


Where Is The Citizen Kim Passport?

One piece of evidence which surely didn't make it into the case today was the original passport which was issued to South Korean Won Hong Kim.

Best information says the passport is in the possession of the Belizean embassy in Taiwan. It was supposed to be brought to Belize in May, but that never happened.

And because it has not appeared - the true whereabouts of the passport has been opened to conjecture.

The question of its whereabouts was put both to COLA and to Attorney General Wilfred Elrington, who is also the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and they gave two very different answers. Here's what they had to say:

Hon. Wilfred Elrington - Attorney General
"As far as I know I haven't heard anything on that. But let me ask you this question since you've asking me so many question: why you want the passport to come to Belize?"

Reporter
"It's of public interest."

Hon. Wilfred Elrington - Attorney General
"People are just curious about it."

Reporter
"Yes."

Hon. Wilfred Elrington - Attorney General
"I don't know, I haven't heard about that. I am not into immigration, I haven't heard anything."

Geovannie Brackett, President - COLA
"I know when we met with the DPP, the DPP requested/instructed the police to get that passport because even authorities have said that in the media that when it comes in they will hand it over to the police to be hand over to the DPP. But I have been reliably informed that entities met in Miami and that passport has been exchanged. Whether it has reached Belize I do not know. But if that is so, I think the authorities needs to come forward and to tell us the Belizean public if that passport if it here and if it's not why."

Reporter
"I know that COLA wants to enter it as part of their evidence in relation to their private persecution."

Hon. Wilfred Elrington - Attorney General
"That's a problem that COLA has then. COLA have to be ingenious and try find ways to get it. I can assure you that tendering a passport in evidence will not help their case one way or the other. I don't even know who will tender the passport, but these are legal niceties which..... you see the truth is that the legal process is quite complex and it's very difficult to get documents even admitted into court, so it's really neither here nor there, it's to my mind for the sake of maybe amusement and of course to lead people onto believe that you are making an effort to do something, but the truth is that that is to my mind flogging a dead horse - you are not going to get anywhere with that."

Kareem Musa, Attorney for COLA
"It's very important. As you know when it comes to criminal persecutions the best evidence is always the original documents, so certainly that would be a key piece of material that would be needed in the private or public persecution of Mr. Penner. Certainly, I am sure the DPP herself if she has an interest in the case has requested that passport because she knows the importance of it, so I don't agree with our titular head that it's not important."

So, that's where it is tonight, Penner has been acquitted of the two immigration offences, but COLA is exploring the option of appeal Magistrate Aretha Ford's decision. They have 21 days in which to file that appeal, and if they don't today's outcome becomes the final decision on these 2 summary jurisdiction offences. That's because, as we've told you, they are now statute barred because 6 months has already passed.

The only other charge which can be brought against him if the 21 days are up, or if that appeal fails, is an indictable offence which only DPP Cheryl Lynn-Vidal would have to bring against Penner.

In March, she explained to the media, quote, "My analysis of the evidence presented to me thus far however, has centered around a consideration of a charge under Section 178 of the Criminal Code which makes it an offence for a person to "make a statement which is to his knowledge untrue for the purpose of procuring a passport whether for himself or any other person". This is an indictable offence and IS NOT subject to any period of limitation."


Fire Leaves 4 Families Homeless, 3 Structures Destroyed

There were two house fires this morning in Belize City - and children playing with fire caused both of them. The more serious one happened at around 10:00 am on Plues and Berkely Streets - right around the corner from our studio. Monica Bodden spoke to the 4 families in 3 houses who had lost everything..

Monica Bodden reporting
The fire started from the upper flat of this two storey green building - and within minutes, the entire structure was up in flames.

Fire fighters were called out to the scene on Berkley and Plues Street just after 10 this morning - and went into quick operation mode in attempt to control the blaze in the congested location.

It wasn't long before the fire spread to this 14 by 14 one bedroom structure on the same premises.

Concerned neighbours lined the area from front to back- while some even risked their lives to run inside the heated buildings to remove gas tanks and even animals.

The atmosphere was very emotional - as the thick smoke that covered the entire area gave residents little to no hope.

This house on Plues Street was spared by the blaze but received fire and water damage at the back of the building.

When it was over, 4 families were affected.

The fire started at Jenise Ramirez's home. Her two children ages 4 and 6 were alone - when one of them took a lighter and lit a paper on fire. The child tried to stamp it out on a mattress and that when things got out of control.

Jenise Ramirez - Fire Victim
"I went to work this morning and I ask my babysitter every day to keep at home with my kids to watch them every day until I am finish working from 7:30am to 5:00 in the evening. I go to work every day and come home every evening to take care of my children. I am a single mother, I work hard and I take care of my kids, I love my kids and that's why I got an adult to watch them every day. I had just bought back everything in my house and now I have lost everything."

But the question is why weren't these young children being supervised by an adult? Ramirez says she did leave them in the care of a babysitter.

Monica Bodden
"I understand that there were home alone. Was the babysitter at home?"

Jenise Ramirez - Fire Victim
"My son told me that the babysitter went home to bath and left them in the house. I told her that if my brother and I and my roommate are not at home, she has access to the whole house to bath, change clothes and do whatever she got to do until 5 in the evening. But they told me that she's been going in and out and left the kids home alone."

Monica Bodden
"The kids told you what happen?"

Jenise Ramirez - Fire Victim
"Yes, my son told me what happened. My 4 year old told me that Jeremy light a paper and the mattress catch fire. He had let it go and it catch the mattress fire in the bedroom. He says that he ran and told the lady downstairs that there is a fire. I don't know who took them out, but somebody call me at my work and told me that fire is at my house."

75 year old Merlene Andrews lives at the lower flat of the two storey building. She was alerted that there was a fire happening from the 4 year old child.

Merlene Andrews
"She and I was in the chair sitting down. The babysitter said that she was going to take a bath and be back. She says that she left them writing. I don't think she got to the lane when the little one came and told us that Jermaine light fire. Honestly I jumped out of my chair, try to go up the stairs and she told me smoke. I call out to my neighbor and say fire. I was so confused that I pick up a little thing to throw out the water. She told me to come out, but I couldn't come out. It was the police man that told me come out. He ask if anyone was in there and I told him that the two children had already come out. At that time the house was already on fire. I couldn't save anything, only my center table and here I am."

Andrews told us this isn't the first time that the children are caught playing with fire.

Merlene Andrews
"This morning earlier the children was in the yard and this lady told them not to light fire up there, she says that she will beat them. I went and tell them to pick up the leaves, not knowing that would have done this. But they are unruly."

Reporter
"You said that if it wasn't for someone to take you out, you would have burn in the fire."

Merlene Andrews
"If she wasn't there."

Jenise Ramirez is a single mother and is asking for the public's assistance. If you would like to give a donation, she can be reached at telephone number 6-0-1-9-3-3-9.


Another Fire Set By Child

The first fire started an hour before that one - at around 9:15 am - and again, kids were the culprits. Luckily, it was a small fire, easily contained.

Neighbors say it was started by a child playing with a lighter. One of the residents spoke with us off camera and told us how the community sprang to action when they saw the house ablaze.

Voice of Neighbor
"We were in our spot and then my sister ran out and said fire. When we came at the back we saw that the mattress had already catch fire. After that my brother-in-law, he has one foot and he actually pulls out this mattress while we were getting water to try and out it."

Robin Schaffer
"How did the fire start? Do you know?"

Voice of Neighbor
"Actually my cousin said that it's my little cousin light the mattress because no one was at the upstairs at the time where the fire started, only the baby and they said that he had a lighter and he lighted the sheet and the sheet catch fire underneath the mattress."

The residents said that if not for the quick response from the community as well as the fire department, the entire neighborhood could have gone down.


Kumul Charged For Common-Law’s Murder

38 year old mother of two, Anabel Kumul was charged for the murder of her common law husband today in San Pedro. She was arraigned and remanded about 30 hours after she allegedly stabbed the 28 year old Felix Alamilla in his leg, chest and eye. The wound to the leg severed an artery and it is believed that caused him to bleed out.

According to reports - Alamilla had gone missing from home for two days and that was supposedly what triggered Kumul to head out at dawn yesterday to find him at a house where he had been spree-ing with friends. She allegedly found him asleep, then jumped on him and started inflicting the stab wounds.

Kumul is a Mexican resident on San Pedro and police say they caught her trying to take a flight off the island at 7:00 am.

Island police are also investigating the possibility that someone may have cleaned up the crime scene before police arrived.


Cop Charged For Extortion

She wasn't the only one San Pedro police took the court today - they also charged one of their own for extortion. Constable Elvin Nah was charged for extortion after an island resident complained that Nah shook him down for four hundred dollars.

The complainant - whose name is not being released - alleged that at 1:00 am on July eighth, Nah stopped and searched him and found two small plastic bags containing cannabis. He took him to the police station where he weighed the drugs at four grams. Nah allegedly then told the complainant that he could set him free without charges if he paid him four hundred dollars. The complainant says he then handed Nah eight fifty dollar bills and was set free without charges. The report was made on July 17th and that's when police started reviewing security video at the police station and questioning officers who were on duty.

Finally an ID parade was conducted where Constable 1308 Nah was positively identified as the person who extorted the complainant. The file was then sent to the DPP who instructed police to charge him for extortion. He was arraigned this morning.


Hattieville Chairman Still Missing: Villagers Pray

Hattieville Chairman Kevin Carcamo has been missing for 4 days now, and today the extensive searches to try to locate him continued.

The seismic testing company that he was working for when he went missing has stepped up their search and they are joined by the Police, the BDF, and now the Coast Guard.

But though the searchers are numerous, as time goes by, the community is losing hope of finding him alive, and so they are organizing a prayer session to implore his safe return.

One of the organizers spoke with us about it today:

Vanesha Rhaburn, Friend of Kevin Carcamo
"We call this event a "Hattieville Community Call to Prayer" because at this time we are desperate for answers about our chairman, he has been missing for 4 days. It's hard for us to believe that a man would be missing in his own terrain. We know that somebody knows something and they are not talking. At this point we have no one else to turn to but to God to help us and to speak to the persons that know what happened that day because we do not accept what is going on."

"I have no idea, but from what I've heard, they said that he was tired and he told them to go ahead and they left. But if you are supposed to cross a river and you are tired, then why would you take the crossing passage. How would that person cross the river if there is no bridge?"

"What I thought of because Mr. Carcamo is the soul bread winner - that we would collect some funds and give to her (his wife) at this time, it's costly and see if that could help her a bit."

"At 7:30 tomorrow night, we will converge at the entrance of the Sibun Road - that's just off the boulevard when you come from the police station, you will drive down or walk down and you bring your candles and we will start from there and I want to make it clear that it is a peaceful, respectful, solemn occasion and we will commence from there to the basketball court where various religious members will offer prayers and we will open the floor for members to comment and express their concerns and share encouragement and just come out together as a community."

The community event starts tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. sharp.


Quality Of Life Crime Crackdown Causes Court Congestion

On Monday we showed you just a sample of the vicious public backlash resulting from the police crackdown on so called quality of life crimes - those minor, always overlooked offences, such as riding a bicycle without a bell or light.

And while there's been a public backlash, what we saw today was the administrative aftermath. Scores of people lined up at the police prosecution branch waiting for hours to pay their fines. It was not a happy scene as the queue ran up and down 2 flights of stairs and spilled outside the door onto the street.

We spoke to one of those very many crammed into the office, Wilbert Meighan Jr. who told us about his experience.

Wilbert Alfred Meighan Jr. Aka Beansie- fined for bicycle offence
"Well there was a commotion here today. It was totally unnecessary, especially in my incident because it was Monday morning and I was on Cemetery Road. I did came out from West Street and was heading down Cemetery Road contrary to traffic. But I saw the police from Euphrates coming walking and I got off my bike went in the yard in front of Salvation Army where they sell journey cakes and powder bun and I went to purchase some stuff. I saw the police coming, I was already in the yard and if I knew they were coming at me, I would have ride left them because I could never believe - I was in the yard and when they took me to the precinct, the police didn't even cautioned me. The male and female police officer they were so happy. I even spoke to the police officer about 7 - 10 minutes before he call the mobile and told them that they got someone detain to be taken to Precinct One on Euphrates Avenue. When the officer reach there he was so happy, he told his colleagues that he has gotten one for the day. The police that took me was so nice, he told me that he hope they give me back my bike and just charge me and have me pay. I didn't get back my bike and I don't have any papers for the bike because I got it from a friend of mine in the States. The bike is so expensive and I spent a lot of money on the bike, the parts isn't cheap, but I would like back my bike."

And while most had to pay fines of $25 per offense, for others it had a much worse outcome since a fair number already had outstanding fines with the court and were in arrears. If they could not pay immediately they got sent to jail.

Indeed, the crackdown is causing all sorts of unforeseen after-effects, and one video that went viral on facebook has put it all into humourous perspective. It shows a man, holding a small baby who was taken in by police, apparently for a bicycle bell, much to the distress of his hysterical family. Watch what happens when police turned their head:..



No word on where the bell-man and the baby got to.

Man Busted For Bicycle Bell Carried Crack

But while many lampoon and lambaste the bicycle crackdown, yesterday, it led to a drug arrest.

45 year-old Stuart Smith was riding his bike contrary to the flow of traffic on Lizarraga Avenue, and that drew police attention on him. When they inspected his bike, they found out that he didn't have a bell or a light, so they began questioning him about it. He remained unusually quiet, and that made the officers suspicious, and so they searched him. They found out that the reason he wasn't talking is because he had a piece of foil paper under his tongue. When they took it out of his mouth, and opened it up, they found that there was an undetermined amount of crack cocaine. Police charge him with possession of a controlled drug, riding a bike up a one way street and riding bicycle without bell.

He pleaded guilty to all the charges and was fined a total of $150, which he must pay by August 31, or he will spend a month and a half in jail if he defaults.


And The PUP’s Candidate For Albert Is…

For months, there has been speculation about who will run for the PUP in the Albert division. There was supposed to have been a convention in May, and at the time three candidates submitted their name. But, the party brass asked them to stand down to make way for a candidate with a higher profile. Speculation was rampant that it would be Dickie Bradley, a former PUP candidate in Queen's Square.

Well, tonight, we can confirm that it isn't Bradley. The likely PUP Standard Bearer for Albert is Paul Thompson, well known as the president of the Belize Basketball Federation. Thompson - who worked as Mark Espat's political officer in the Albert between 1996 and 2006 - confirmed today that he has put in his name as a candidate for Albert. We say he is the "likely" standard bearer because it is not clear if he will face a convention challenge. But, political insiders suggest that since the party brass directly courted his candidacy - they are expected to clear the way for him to be endorsed as a candidate who would not have to face a convention challenge.

Thompson is well known in the ALBERT area where he was the political point-man for two of the three Mark Espat terms - where in 2003 Espat won with a still unmatched 83% of the vote.

Thompson is currently a member of the Board for BIL, or Belize Infrastructure Limited where he was appointed by Prime Minister Dean Barrow by virtue of his presidency of the Basketball Federation.


Capital Police Still Looking For Stolen DOE Pickup

Last night, we told you about the Department of Environment Vehicle which was stolen in broad daylight yesterday from the busy market square in Belmopan.

Today, investigators were no closer to figuring out how the thief managed to pull it off, but they were able to brief us on what they know so far about it's last known whereabouts:

Inspector Dennis Myles, Acting OC - Belmopan
"What we do know is that Mr. Edgar Eck reported to us sometime after 9 yesterday morning he parked his brown 2008 Toyota Hilux in front of the environment office and from there it was stolen. The person from the environment - we had recorded statements from those persons and there is no definite lead in regards to the investigation."

Reporter
"Is it a case where he did had his key with him and maybe the window was bashed in to get access or using duplicate keys?"

Inspector Dennis Myles, Acting OC - Belmopan
"We are not sure. We are doing our investigation. What we do know is that they were in possession of the original key for the vehicle. When we received the report that the vehicle was stolen, we quickly informed Benque and San Ignacio police. We have even set up checks points along the Western Highway to ensure that we could have canvass in the vehicle, but it was fruitless. We didn't have any trails. To me they are targeting a specific type of vehicle and vehicles that are assign to the government of Belize and as you well know the vehicle that went missing from the Forestry Department was also a Toyota Hilux. What give the police the impression is that these vehicles are easily taken across the border, across Melchor."

Reporter
"Sir, any tips for holders of such vehicles?"

Inspector Dennis Myles, Acting OC - Belmopan
"The only tips that the police will offer is that what we do know is that from time to time these vehicles were taken into these mechanic shops or taken to these car wash place and you would leave your keys there and you could never tell - people might easily slip and duplicate these keys."

As we've told you it's a brown 2008 Toyota Hilux pickup with license plate number BMP B-0108, and anyone who has information on it whereabouts is asked to contact the nearest police.

Belmopan police are still on the look-out for Mayor Simeon Lopez's municipal government vehicle, which was stolen last week Tuesday. They also have no leads in that theft, and they are asking for the public's assistance.


Alleged Robber Remanded

23 year-old Francis Arana, a Lavender Street resident who has been on remand since Monday for Firearm offences, was brought back to court today for additional charges. He's believed to be one of the men who targetted a Bowen and Bowen delivery team last week Thursday, but instead of taking money, they went for the security guard's gun.

As we reported, the incident occurred around10:30 a.m. Marlon Wade, a security guard employed by Fort Point Security, reported to the police that he and two other security guards, Eddie Arnold and Chester Mclaren, were making a delivery in a Ford Ranger pick-up truck. When they reached Eleven Shop on Oleander Street they were approached by 3 men. Wade said one of the men wore a stocking mask and was armed with what appeared to be a .38 revolver while the others wore no mask and were unarmed. He said at gunpoint, they stole a 9 millimeter pistol with 12 rounds of ammunition in its magazine, which is owned by fort point Security and has a value of $3,000 dollars. Wade said they also stole a Samsung cellular phone belonging to Arnold, which has a value of $1,200. Because of the report from the security guard, Arana was charged with aggravated assault and 2 counts of robbery.

He was arraigned before Senior Magistrate Sharon Frazer, and he pleaded not guilty to the offences. He was remanded to prison until September 26.


What To Do In Case Of Fire

There have been a rash of fires in the city recently - and apart from the massive loss of property - since May, two lives have been lost.

But what should or can you do in the event that fire comes breathing down your door? It's a possibility that none of us would event want to consider, but it's real, and today Station Officer of the Belize National Fire Services, Orin Smith briefed the media on what to do when there is a fire and how to prevent one from happening. Here are some demonstrations - set to the very persistent din of a fire alarm.

Orin Smith - Station Officer, National Fire Service
"Here I have in front of me a lighter gun, a candle, a cigarette lighter, a box of match - these are all tools that adults used. I am appealing to the adults to train the children. These are not toys for the children to play with and by all means do not leave these tools in easy-reach of children. Children have a natural way of learning. They will learn by imitating what they see adults do. If there are smokers in the home that use cigarette lighters, if they placed these things in easy-reach of children they will use them. Some home don't use matches, they either use a lighter or a lighter gun or have an electric stove that you can just press the button and that stove light up. If they have these tools, do not leave them in easy reach of children."

"Children, these tools: a match, a lighter, or lighted candles, these are tools for adults to use. They are not toys, so do not play with them. The danger of playing with is that you will burn down the house, you can burn and injure yourself or you can kill yourself in a fire."

"Parents, you should also have a smoke alarm in the home. Smoke alarm provides early warning in the event of fire for evacuation. If the fire is in the incipient stage, having an extinguisher at home helps you to quickly put out that fire. You can save your home which cost quite a bit and these tools do not cost very much or you can lose a life worth of labour and hard work in the destruction of your home if you fail to implement these safety precautions or train your children on the dangers of playing with matches, lighters and lighted candles."

"If you are at home and you awake to the sound of the fire alarm, simply get to the door at the way you are in, stay low. If there is no heat, push the door open slowly, stay low and crawl to the nearest exit quickly and get out of the building."

He says you can purchase a smoke detector for as little as 25 dollars and a small fire extinguisher for 50 dollars.

In the past month alone there have been 4 reported fires in the Belize District; all caused by children.


Artist Releases “Presshah”

Freddy Bencomo a 39 year old Belizean artist is making his debut tomorrow night at the Image Factory. He has been painting from about 2002, but has lacked the confidence to display his work - until now. We stopped in to see his exhibit called "Presshah" hoping to reveal the hidden talents of this local artist:



Presshah launches at 7:pm tomorrow night and will be on display until the end of July..


City Closes Summer Camp

The Belize City Council today closed its summer camp. It happened at the Skills Center on Magazine Road and Councilor Alain Gonzalez told us what the camp focused on:


And while at this afternoon's camp closing, we caught up with Major Darrell Bradley who is back in country after a visit from LA and LV, that is, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.


The Mayor plans on keeping close ties with Belizean Americans living in the city of Los Angeles.


Belize Triathlete Fails To Finish Swim

Today, the 20th Commonwealth Games began in Scotland with 6 events, one of which was the Triathlon. Belize's only Tri-athlete, the defending Lion Man Champion, Kent Bob Gabourel competed against 40 other tri-athletes from across the commonwealth. But, it didn't go well. Regrettably, he was unable to complete the swimming portion - which is the first leg of the three stage event.

In the end, England won both 1st and 2nd place with South Africa placing 3rd. Belize's Andy Wigmore will participate in the Shooting competition on Monday, July 28th.

On another note, today Katy Sealy and Gregory Lovell joined 140 athletes from 70 other nations when they had lunch with the Queen.


BCVI Gets Major Boost

This morning the Belize Council for the Visually Impaired received a generous donation from the Lions Club International Foundation. There was a handing over of a 2 story addition for the Belize Lions club's existing building, which houses the National eye clinic. Eye care equipment for the Diabetic Screening and Treatment Project were also donated. Today we spoke with Deputy Director of BCVI, Carla Musa who told us more.

Carla Ayres Musa, Deputy Director, BCVI
"BCVI was very happy to have our official handing over from the Lions Club to us for two projects that we've been working on together since about 2011. We've gone through the process of submitting proposals and having them reviewed and actually implementing them and we did the official handing over today."

"The first project that we worked on was a standard grant with Lions International and that allowed for the expansion of the facility that we are in right now. This use to be the outside space and people use to have to wait in the rain and in the sun and because BCVI and Lions have had a relationship over a few decades now, we have the same goal of preventing blindness and we thought that it would be great to team up with them because this is their building that we work out for us to be able to expand and offer more services. That was the first portion that we handed over today we were handed to."

"The other project is a "Sight First" project and this concentrates on diabetic retinopathy which we realize that BCVI is an increasing, very trouble-ly increasing problem that we have here, so along with Lions International again and local Lions we submitted a project proposal and it was approved and we were given funds to be able to purchase 3 potable fondas cameras, we also Ophthalmic unit, Tonometers, a laser so we can have a full national diabetic retinopathy screening and treatment program."

The upper flat will bring the computer lab together and provide an area for training and administrative support. The expansion was funded by Lions International which granted fifty six thousand, US dollars and BCVI which added twenty thousand US dollars. Funding for the Diabetic Screening and Treatment project was provided through a grant from Lions International Sight First Fund in the amount of three hundred thousand US dollars which covered equipment, renovations and eye health education and training.


Will Belize Accede To Munitions?

Belize may soon become the 85th country to accede to the convention on cluster munitions. Now, you're probably asking, why is this news since Belize has nothing to do with cluster munitions? Well, a UN activist group is trying to make Central America the first sub region which has acceded to the treaty and Belize is the only holdout.

We spoke to a representative for the Cluster Munition Coalition, Hector Guerra, who explained to us why Belize's accession is important even though no cluster munitions have ever been used in the country.

Hector Guerra, Rep. - Cluster Munition Coalition
"Most of the countries in the Caribbean and Latin America are on board. As a matter of fact Central America is about to become the first sub region worldwide fully on board the convention of cluster munitions, the country that is missing is Belize. We know that it shouldn't be difficult for the country to accede to this treaty because it has never use, produce, and stockpile or transferred or being affected by cluster munitions. One way of showing the interest that Belize has for this would be to participate in the 5th meeting for states parties coming on in September in San Jose, Costa Rica. It will be the first international meeting around the convention Cluster Munitions taking place in Latin America and the Caribbean, but most important it's going to take place in Central America, so it's an excellent opportunity."

The 5th meeting of the state parties will be held in September in San Jose, Costa Rica. Belize has not yet indicated if it will attend. No decision has been made yet on the convention.




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