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October 05
13:59 2018

Last Wednesday, September 26th, eight men charged for the murder of Orange Walk resident, Ariel Salazar in February 2018 walked out of the Magistrate’s Court free men after the matter was struck out. In an interview shortly after, Deputy Commissioner of Police Chester Williams explained that they received the case file from the office of the DPP just one day before the case, and because it contained instructions for the Police, it was incomplete and could not be taken to Court.

The office of the DPP has taken serious issue with the suggestion that they were to blame for the matter being struck out, and came out swinging in a letter written to Commissioner of Police Allen Whylie, dated 2nd. October. In that letter, Crown Counsel Javier Chan states, “We are writing to record our utter displeasure with the Police handling of the case at caption. We are aggrieved, in particular, by the misleading information that was provided to the Court and the media on September 26th, 2018.

Chan goes on to place blame squarely in the hands of the Police Department, stating that when the DPP’s Office first received the file in July, it was sent back to the Police that same month with directives for them to follow. The file was then returned to the DPP’s Office in September, and Chan explained that the Police had not complied with the directives, so it was sent back to them. At that point, Chan states in the letter, the DPP’s Office sought an adjournment of the Preliminary Inquiry scheduled to allow time for the Police to comply with the directives.

But that never happened. Chan says the file was returned to them again a week after, and the Police had still not complied with the directives, and that is when the DPP’s Office stated that because the Police had not complied they were unable to advise on the case. The file was returned to the Police on September 25th, 2018, and because it was incomplete and could not be taken before the Court, the matter was struck out at the PI stage on September 26th, 2018.

To make his point even clearer, Chan asserted that outside of the formal chain of communications, Counsel in the DPP’s Office had met with the investigating officer to impress upon him the urgency of complying with the directives. And still, it was not done.

Chan wraps up his very strong letter by making direct reference to the interview given by Deputy Commissioner of Police Chester Williams, stating that “it was obviously meant to convey that it was the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions that caused the matter to be struck out by sending the file to the Police shortly before the preliminary inquiry. This office takes a dim view of the actions of your department in this regard, given the surrounding circumstances.”

The tongue-lashing, delivered via letter, prompted a sheepish response from Deputy Commissioner of Police Williams. In a letter sent out on October 3rd, Williams writes that “at no time did any member of the Belize Police Department blame the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions or any of its employees for the dismissal of the captioned matter.” Williams goes on to express his satisfaction with the work of Crown Counsel Chan.

As to those pesky directives from the DPP’s Office, Williams explains that the Department was unable to comply with them because of “circumstances that were out of their control.” However, he asserted that the Office of the Commissioner of Police has become involved, and where the directives are concerned they should have a resolution within a week.
For now, the seven BDF soldiers and one Police Officer who formed the BSAG team that was accused of the murder of Ariel Salazar remain free men.

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