Murders are committed in T&T as a result of prisoners using phones and calling assassination plots. That happened as recently as yesterday morning, Attorney General Faris Al Rawi told the Senate as he piloted the Interception of Communication Bill.
Al Rawi said the proposed legislation is one of the most critical to be laid in Parliament.
It allows for the interception of communications within prisons and prison vehicles used to transport inmates. Provisions also propose that information that has been intercepted will be admissible as evidence in any proceedings.
The AG said: “In the prisons of Trinidad and Tobago assassination calls are made from the prison. National forces—the SSA and Police Commissioner—have actionable information that phones are being used in the prisons and assassinations are being carried out at the behest of prisoners and you can do nothing about it as you lack the privilege of using that as warranted evidence in court as you’ve intercepted it in circumstances where the evidence isn’t admissible in law.”
He warned that law is being drafted for mandatory lie detection tests across certain aspects of National Security.
“Tipping off is a reality in Trinidad and Tobago and it has to be criminalised. We’re aware members of the protective services, unfortunately, find themselves engaged in tipping off,” Al Raw added.
He said the Interception of Communication law passed in 2010 was confined to communication networks, while the current Bill pertains to the interception of listening devices in prison. The 26-clause
The Bill requires a three-fifths special majority vote for passage and requires the support of Opposition or Independent senators.
Its provisions pertain to stored data such as texts and communicated or traffic data which could help locate an offender as well as the geography of a crime. He said that aspect could help in kidnapping cases.
Clauses also provide for officers to apply for a warrant to obtain stored communication from a telecommunications service provider and to obtain stored data and disclose the stored communication and stored data as specified under a warrant.
The Bill also covers sensitive information which the AG said wouldn’t be disclosed if it jeopardises other law enforcement enquiries.
However, prisoners’ calls in the prison’s allocated areas won’t be intercepted since such calls fall under the category of “legal professional privilege”
Al Rawi said comments on the Bill were received from a variety of agencies, from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to the police, but none from the Law Association. He said Government proposed to discuss the legislation further on another day apart from yesterday’s first leg.
He said he hoped Opposition senators would support the Bill and appealed to all senators not to heed Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s recent arguments against it. He urged them to drape themselves “in national colours” and consider it.
“I ask for your patriotism today,” he added.