10 thousand dollars for Brhea Bowen for GSU abuse Print E-mail
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Friday, 06 July 2018 00:00

Brhea Bowen, a 20 year-old Belize City resident, has won a ten thousand dollar-judgment against the Government of Belize and the Police Department in a lawsuit for unlawful imprisonment.

The Supreme Court ruled that the Firearms Amendment Act of 2010 was misapplied in her family’s case. Police are now expected to investigate and prove who the owner of an illegal firearm and/or ammunition is, so that innocent members of a family, or other persons present, won’t be necessarily swept up in a police raid and subjected to the deprivation of their freedom unjustly.

Brhea’s case dates back to July 6, 2012. That’s when a team of officers from the Gang Suppression Unit went to her family’s home on La Croix Boulevard in Belize City. When they searched the house thoroughly, they found 3 cartridges for a 16-gauge shotgun, which was inside a black plastic bag under the flooring of the house.

Brhea’s mother, Romie Anthony, and her brother, Amir Anthony were immediately taken into custody, and they were charged with keeping unlicensed ammunition. Brhea, who was only 14 years-old at the time, was at summer camp in Burrell Boom, and she had no idea that the GSU had already searched her family’s home without her personal supervision. She was later informed that the GSU was looking for her, and that she needed to surrender to the GSU for criminal charges.

She did, and a few days later, she and her other 2 family members were arraigned before Senior Magistrate Sharon Frazer. Due to the nature of the Firearm Amendment Act, the family couldn’t get bail, and so they were all remand into custody. Brhea was sent to the Youth Hostel, while the adult members of her family were remanded at the Belize Central Prison. 4 years later, her family was acquitted of the ammunition charges because police couldn’t prove who the cartridges belong to, and they also couldn’t prove that any member of the family actually knew that these illegal items were on their property.

At the encouragement of her attorney, Anthony Sylvestre, Brhea sued the police and the government, and her case was heard by Justice Shona Griffith. After listening and considering the arguments on both sides, on Tuesday, July 3, Justice Griffith ruled in favor of Brhea. The judge, in her oral ruling, stated clearly that it is not enough for police to simply find an unlicensed firearm, and or ammunition and then arrest and charge everyone who resides at the premises. She found that the GSU were misapplying the Firearms Amendment Act, and that Brhea’s constitutional right to freedom had been breached.

In compensation, Justice Shona Griffith awarded Brhea with $10,000 in compensation, and the Government of Belize must also pay her court costs of $5,000.

Speaking with the media outside of court, Brhea said, “I believe the GSU needs to stop because they do not even do a proper investigation… to find out who it [the gun or ammunition] is for. They do not even try to find out if it’s a set up or anything like that. They just arrest everyone. That is not right because it is innocent people. While I was locked up at the hostel we had a counselor and she looked at me and said ‘how comes you are so humble to the situation because a lot of people when bad things like this happen to them they become people who really start break the law.’ I said that I did nothing wrong. So why would I b e bitter? Why would I make bad karma for myself?”