After the devolution of the responsibility for traffic management and control to the Belize City Council in 1994, the Council was overwhelmed with Violation Tickets for traffic offences. The Council had no way of dealing with a number of tickets which were first heard summarily. The need for a Municipal Court was inevitable. After much lobbying with the Central Government, the Council was finally considered to have a Magistrate assigned at City Hall to hear cases for the Belize City Council. The Court is the second arm of the legal and Legislative Department; the first being the Office of the Director of Legal Affairs. The Municipal Court is managed by the Court Manager Ms Ursula Smith.
First Place of Sitting
By virtue of Statutory Instrument No.74 of 1997 City hall was added as a place of sitting by the Prime Minister who was at that time the Attorney General who signed the Statutory Instrument. The first official sitting of the Court was on 26th July, 1997. Since then the Court has sat at Regent Street and Craig Street and more recently the Second Floor of the Wellworth Building.
Role and Function
The basic function of the Municipal Court is to hear all matters pertaining to the Belize City Council. The Court is similar to the Inferior Court or District Court and follows similar court practices rules, procedures and etiquette.
The Court is governed by the Inferior Courts Act, Chapter 94 of the Laws of Belize, The District Court Act (Procedure) Act, Chapter 97 of the Laws of Belize, and the Summary Jurisdiction (Procedure) Act, Chapter 99 of the Laws of Belize.
Matters Adjudicated by the Court
Over the past twelve years the Court heard all traffic offences which were not paid. These matters were first heard by summons, later in an effort to expedite hearing a traffic ticket is now an automatic summons after 30 days of non-payment. This new legal procedure was effected by the MOTOR VEHICLES AND ROAD TRAFFIC (VIOLATION TICKETS),REGULATIONS OF 2003 (STATUTORY INSTRUMENT NO.180 OF 2003) GAZETTED ON 13TH DECEMBER,2003.
It is the feeling of the Court Manager that there is a need to dispense with some of the formalities and have a speedier process of court hearing for traffic offences and for public drinking offences. Draft legislation has been prepared to enable the Special Constables to issue tickets for public drinking which will be heard similarly to the traffic offences.
Towns Property Tax Arrears
The Court also hears matters for the recovery of arrears of property taxes in keeping with the strict provisions of the Towns Property Tax Act, chapter 65 of the laws Belize.
Trade Licensing Offences and Arrears
The Court also hears matters relating to trade licensing arrears and offences. The Court is also empowered by virtue of the Trade Licensing (Amendment) Act (No.22 of 2008) to issue Stop Orders for businesses which fail to pay any fees due including fees relating to the collection of and disposal of garbage pursuant the BELIZE CITY(CONTROL OF GARBAGE AND USE OF DUMPSITE) (AMENDMENT) BYLAWS OF 2009 (STATUTORY INSTRUMENT No. 98 of 2009) GAZETTED 1ST AUGUST,2009.
Intoxicating Liquor Licensing Offences
The Court also hears offences relating to liquor offences. These offences are laid before the Court by the Special Constables and the Court adjudicates on these matters.
The Court hears all offences against the public health laws. Specifically the Court hears matters such as littering offences, nuisance and applications for Orders to demolish dangerous and abandoned buildings.
All revenues generated by the Court are credited to the City Fund.
General Powers of the Court
Despite the use of the nomenclature “Municipal” the Court has all the powers vested in the Magistrates’ Court. From time to time, the Court has ordered distress of goods and chattels, committal warrants, and bench warrants. The Court also has the power to order imprisonment of offenders. The Court also has the authority to supervise all court related public auctions.
It is the view of the Court Coordinator that the existing court rules should be amended to make the Court a “user friendly” Court and to enable the average Belize to have access to the Court with minimal expenses. The Council has prepared a draft Concept Paper and a draft Municipal Court Bill which is fashioned similarly to the Family Courts. The Bill has been forwarded to the Ministry of Local Government for further advice.
For additional information you can visit our office located 3rd Floor Wellworth Building on Regent Street or call 227-3073 ext 321
Deputy Mayor Oscar Arnold
Director of Legal Affairs: Margaret McKenzie
Manager: Ursula Smith
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org