Women and Justice: Keywords

Legislation

Evidence Act (2000)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

Section 74 of the Evidence Act governs “[r]estrictions on evidence at trials for rape.”  This section provides that when a man is being prosecuted for rape or attempted rape, the “sexual experience of a complainant with a person other than that defendant” is inadmissible.  The exception to this rule is if a judge is satisfied that it would be unfair to the defendant to refuse to allow the evidence.  Under Section 92(3), a judge has discretion to warn the jury of the “special need for caution” when the prosecution relies only on the testimony of the accuser where a person is “prosecuted for rape, attempted rape, carnal knowledge or any other sexual offence.”



Domestic Case Law

Gutierrez v. The Queen Court of Appeal of Belize (2018)

Employment discrimination, Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

The appellant was convicted of raping a 16-year-old female colleague and was sentenced to eight years in prison.  The Court of Appeal granted a retrial because the trial court had “erred in failing to give a proper/adequate direction to the jury.”  Under Section 92(3)(a) of Belize’s Evidence Act, a trial court has discretion to “warn the jury of the special need for caution” where the only evidence against a person charged with rape is the word of the victim.  Where a judge exercises such discretion, he or she must provide the reasons for cautioning the jury.  The trial judge did caution the jury in the case, but the Court of Appeal found he had erred by not warning the jury that the complainant had lied during her testimony and by not pointing out the complainant’s admission that she had been raped was made only after being threatened by her father.  The Court of Appeal also found that the trial judge should have warned the jury that the complainant “may have had some kind of relationship with the Appellant.”