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A Bill to amend the Interception of Communications Act was passed in the House of Representatives, yesterday (November 28).
Leader of Government Business and Minister of National Security, Dr. Peter Phillips, who piloted the Bill, requested the House to adopt clauses one to six, noting that the Bill had been previously discussed in the House.
The House of Representatives had, earlier this year, approved amendments to the Act, which would allow law enforcement officials to intercept the communication of suspected criminal offenders, without a court order, for a period of up to seven days.
Dr. Phillips informed the House that the changes to the Act were occasioned “primarily by (the) technological changes that have occurred subsequent to the original legislation coming into effect”.
He explained that the effort “is to facilitate law enforcement agencies in securing the original purposes of the Act, in light of these changes that have occurred to the technologies since the original Bill was passed in 2002”.
The Minister noted further, that the revised Bill sought to “allow service providers to maintain the appropriate facilities, and secondly, to enable law enforcement to deal with the technological changes which allow for a rapid change of instruments, for the non-permanence of instruments and for other necessary assistance to be given to law enforcement”.
It was determined by a Committee, which was chaired by Minister Phillips, to examine the proposed amendments, that the list of offences in the Act be extended to include the sale and trafficking of children, defilement by threats or fraud, forcible abduction, administering drugs, child stealing, aiding and abetting or conspiring to commit any of the scheduled offences.
While the primary intention of the Act – to curb criminal activity – found favour with members of the Opposition, they raised concerns about the infringement of individual rights.
Opposition Spokesman on National Security and Leader of Opposition Business, Derrick Smith said while the Opposition agreed with elements of the Act, “in the interest of national security”, if credible information came to them over time, “we will not be reluctant or hesitate to rescind what we are agreeing to do today, because we are overly concerned about the rights of individuals in this country”.
“We hope this amendment will improve the investigative skills of the members of the security forces and we hope in due course, it will help to bring some of these criminals, locally and overseas, to book,” he added.