On 29 October 2018 Tim Otty QC was called to the Bar of Belize in order to appear as Counsel in the Court of Appeal in the latest stage of the challenge brought by Caleb Orozco to the constitutional validity of Section 53 of the Belize Criminal Code.
In August 2016 the Chief Justice of Belize ruled in favour of Mr Orozco on all grounds. He held that Section 53, which purported to criminalise private consensual homosexual conduct, was unconstitutional in violating the Belize Constitution on a series of grounds: Section 3 (the right to dignity), Section 6 (the right to equality before the law), Section 12 (the right to freedom of expression, Section 14 (the right to privacy) and Section 16 ( the right to non-discrimination on grounds of sex).
The Government accepted the Chief Justice’s findings on Sections 3, 6 and 14 and the resulting read down of the legislation bringing about decriminalisation. The Government nevertheless appealed against the findings on Sections 12 and 16 contending that they raised issues of public importance.
Mr Orozco (represented by Lisa Shoman SC and Professor Westmin James) opposed both grounds of appeal on the basis that they were academic in nature given the other accepted findings and that they were in any event of no merit having regard to the case law before the Chief Justice and further more recent case law from the Caribbean Court of Justice, the Kenyan High Court, the High Court of Trinidad and Tobago and the Indian Supreme Court.
The Commonwealth Lawyers Association, together with the International Commission of Jurists and the Human Dignity Trust, intervened in support of Mr Orozco at first instance, and did so again at the hearing before the Court of Appeal. The interveners were represented pro bono by Tim Otty QC, Leslie Mendez of Marine Parade Chambers Belize, and Debevoise Plimpton LLP.
Argument in the case concluded on 29 October 2018 and judgment has been reserved.