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Belize Justice System

What is the Legal System in Belize?

The Supreme Court of Belize now permits videoconferencing as a mode of proceeding in certain proceedings, and as such most hearings previously held within chambers can now take place remotely.

The Constitution, adopted on 21 September 1981, establishes a parliamentary system. The governor-general represents the British crown and appoints both prime minister and cabinet members.

Criminal law

Belize follows a British-influenced criminal justice system. Its court hierarchy follows this structure, with lower court decisions appealed up the line to higher ones until eventually reaching the Supreme Court of Justice as its highest and final appellate court – In addition to serving its legal function, this court serves as an arbitration body between member states of CARICOM.

Belize’s judiciary is an independent branch of government governed by its Constitution and led by a Chief Justice. Different branches of court administer different areas of law; including district and summary jurisdiction courts that handle civil cases as well as lesser penal offenses.

Cases before the Supreme Court are heard by judges and juries composed of 12 members for capital offenses and nine members for non-capital ones, with judges often selecting jurors themselves from within three judicial districts for selection purposes. Service of process typically occurs via personal delivery but alternative methods may also be allowed by court order.

Belize’s criminal justice system has long been subject to criticism due to inefficiency and corruption, with high-profile cases related to organized crime being dismissed because of political influence, while over one third of inmates remain pre-trial detention without convictions being made. Despite these concerns, however, Belize’s judiciary remains committed to improving its performance by revamping both civil and criminal procedures, introducing gender protocols, as well as improving access to courts.

In terms of drug law, the Supreme Court has set standards to regulate the supply and use of controlled substances as well as restrict cultivation efforts of illicit narcotics. As a result of their efforts, their efforts have helped decrease production while simultaneously strengthening law enforcement efforts.

The country has a high homicide rate, and many of those killed were by law enforcement officials. As a result, the Supreme Court ruled that police must adhere to specific legal standards when using force or firearms against suspects, while also ruling against death penalties on human rights grounds, including privacy rights and freedom of expression rights.

Civil law

Belize’s legal system is founded on English common law and its constitution guarantees a wide array of civil rights and freedoms as well as an independent judiciary system. Furthermore, its Bill of Rights contains other fundamental rights such as privacy protection. Furthermore, no citizen may be discriminated against on grounds of race, religion, or sex and the Constitution strictly prohibits corporal punishment, arbitrary detention, or secret imprisonment practices.

The Supreme Court of Belize enjoys original jurisdiction for all civil matters and can hear appeals of decisions by lower courts. Judges for the Supreme Court are appointed by the Governor-General upon advice from the Prime Minister, after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. It consists of eight judges including its Chief Justice; its jurisdiction covers both domestic and international issues.

Domestic law involves numerous matters for which the court acts as an arbiter: marriage and divorce cases, property rights disputes between spouses, cohabitee disputes and rights of children as well as tenancy arrangements. Furthermore, upon petition by one party involved, evidence can be sealed or kept private from public view.

There is also the Court of Appeal and Magistrate’s Court, both equipped with professionally trained and experienced judges, clerks, and staff members; modern technology (videoconferencing for hearings); as a result of pandemic-induced legislation change the Supreme Court has implemented new procedures regarding filings, service delivery, and court proceedings.

The court exists to uphold fairness in proceedings, including making sure each party receives due process. Furthermore, it has the power to award damages and costs when appropriate; additionally it may impose injunctions, restraints and orders to protect litigant interests; it even has authority for habeas corpus applications – allowing parties seeking access to another’s file – on specific matters.

Belize follows English common law and features a court system modeled on English common law with a Chief Justice and Court of Appeal. Since 2009, as part of Caricom and in place of its Privy Council predecessor, Belize adopted the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

Administrative law

Belize’s legal system is heavily based on English common law and was adopted on 21 September 1981 – its date of independence from Britain – when a constitution was adopted with a bill of rights included to establish the judicial branch of government, along with provisions for a supreme court and labour complaints tribunal; with the latter holding jurisdiction for all civil and criminal cases brought before lower courts before them and hearing appeals to decisions rendered thereon.

Belize’s legislative branch, known as the National Assembly, is a bicameral body comprised of both elected House of Representatives and appointed Senate members. Belize enjoys universal suffrage; within this assembly are two major political parties: centre-right United Democratic Party and center-left People’s United Party who each elect 31 Representatives while 12 are appointed by Governor General as senators.

Civil litigation must be filed within six years from when the cause of action occurred, but there are exceptions such as trust-based cases and claims on deceased estates. Furthermore, this court also has jurisdiction in adverse possession cases and can decide if a claim is barred by statute of limitations.

Belize possesses three lower courts in addition to its Supreme Court. The High Court enjoys unlimited original jurisdiction and adjudicates appeals from any inferior court’s decisions, while the Court of Appeal operates independently from both courts, with four judges (including a Chief Justice ) sitting independently and hearing appeals from decisions of Cassation courts as well as lower courts in Belize and surrounding regions.

Belize courts are relatively young and progressive, boasting state-of-the-art technology in their facilities and an online case management system. Furthermore, they actively engage in public outreach and training initiatives focused on issues affecting society – providing training on topics like social media use and gender sensitization among judges themselves.


Belize’s judiciary system is rooted in English common law. A chief justice leads the Supreme Court and there are Courts of Appeal; additionally there is also the Caribbean Court of Justice and Privy Council which are available. Belize is part of the Commonwealth of Nations.

Constitutionally, Belize delegates judicial power to its Supreme Court, headed by a Chief Justice appointed on the advice of the Prime Minister after consultation with the leader of the opposition and two other justices. Civil cases are heard by District Courts which feature both summary jurisdiction and district courts located throughout Belize’s six districts. Belize also boasts an active arbitration regime with trained arbitrators available throughout its borders; domestic and foreign awards can be established according to their Law of Contract (Law of Contract), Arbitration Act and international conventions as applicable.

Judges can issue orders against those who fail to respond promptly and acknowledge service of claims or file and serve a defence in time. Sometimes the court may allow one or more representatives with similar interests in proceedings to represent them before it. An order from the court binds everyone whom it represents; Belize law does permit representative actions as well as class actions.

Under Belizean law, money judgments that qualify for registration with the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act may be enforced within its borders. This law includes judgments from England and Wales as well as Commonwealth Nations countries like Pakistan or Indonesia.

Judges may award damages to people injured due to negligent, reckless, or intentional acts committed by another party. The amount awarded depends on both the circumstances and severity of injury sustained; normally courts determine the award within an acceptable timeframe. They can also award punitive damages as an extra measure intended to punish wrongdoers while discouraging similar crimes from occurring again in future; they can also grant medical expenses compensation as well as pay out for lost wages as well as physical and emotional suffering suffered as part of this judgment process.