A joint select committee (JSC) reviewing the INDECOM Act met at Gordon House and spoke favourably of recommending amendments to the Telecommunications Act and the Interception of Communications Act to make it possible.
The proposal, which was submitted to the JSC by INDECOM, has already received the support of Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) and the Norman Manley Law School at Mona, although there has been no response from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) or the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), or even the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) during the review.
Yesterday, the proposal won additional support from both Minister of Justice Senator Mark Golding, who chairs the committee, and Minister of National Security Peter Bunting, who is also a member.
The only dissenting voices were Opposition spokesman on national security, Derrick Smith, who felt that the committee should be very careful in dealing with such sensitive issues, and government senator, Lambert Brown, who felt that the request should have been routed through the Cabinet.
Asked by Senator Golding to explain what INDECOM was seeking from amending the laws, INDECOM Commissioner Terrence Williams, said that it was necessary to “permit INDECOM to get communications data relevant to an investigation in the same way the police are able to”.
He said that the amendment would allow INDECOM to receive telephone data, “so that in an appropriate case we can know who were the persons making calls to this telephone, and who were receiving, and so on…”
He added that this access is of great value in modern investigations, noting that previously INDECOM received this information from the police, but access to the data was subsequently discontinued.
“There is no doubt about that,” Senator Golding commented, noting that both the Securities Commission and the Financial Services Commission (FSC) have also been recently given similar authority.
Bunting suggested that the committee should not just recommend an amendment specific to INDECOM but allow, by ministerial order, that other government bodies could be added to the access list.
“From time to time additional bodies are created, and even within the police force, for example, and the military, there are only two persons designated, within the Act, who can make applications,” he pointed out.
“We may want to expand that even within, for example, we may want to give the (police) Anti-Corruption Branch their own independent ability to be able to make requests for that,” he added. Senator Golding pointed out that the issue was not about interceptions, but the provision of data, as was the case with the FSC.
But, Bunting suggested tha, if INDECOM needs intercepted voice communications, they should be able to make the request through the JCF’s Anti-Corruption Branch “I think this is something that we should recommend that they be given,” Golding said.
The committee will resume sitting in September.