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The Senate on Friday (Dec. 15) passed a Bill to amend the Interception of Communications Act, to give the security forces increased power to tap the telephones of persons suspected or accused of criminal involvement.
Minister of Justice, Senator A. J. Nicholson, who piloted the Bill, said that the legislation would authorize the interception of all of the communication of a specific person named in a warrant and enable authorized officers to request technical information from telecommunications service providers under the Telecommunications Act.
According to Senator Nicholson, the ability to intercept communications is a critical tool of law enforcement particularly in relation to organized crime. “It is virtually impossible to organize a complex crime or maintain a criminal organisation without communications. Any sort of network of organized crime is going to require communication,” he stated.
The Bill will also provide for faster procedures for the modification of interception warrants. Under the existing legislation, a warrant authorizes the interception of only those addresses specified, in terms of the person or premises described in the warrant.
A communication address refers to the location, telephone number, email address or other number that can be used to identify a telecommunications network or apparatus. Where a person changes his/her telephone number subsequent to the warrant being issued, a new application has to be made to a judge for another warrant to intercept that number.
The amended Bill however, “will provide for a new type of warrant that will target the individual by authorizing the interception of all the communication addresses of the person named on the face of the warrant,” explained Senator Nicholson.
In the meantime, the Bill seeks to place an obligation on the telecommunication service provider to assume the cost of establishing and maintaining the capacity to intercept communications.
This decision was reached after discussions involving the Ministries of National Security and Industry, Technology, Energy and Commerce.
“Service providers will be authorized to recover reasonable cost associated with this obligation and the Office of Utilities and Regulation will be mandated to determine what costs are recoverable,” informed the Senator.
Senator Trevor McMillan, in his remarks, said that the Opposition was in full support of the Bill, noting that “the security forces need all the resources that they can possibly get to make this country a safer and better place.”
He added however that, there was a need to “ensure that nobody uses their office to abuse the power of this piece of legislation”.