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#389011 - 10/02/10 03:21 PM Wiretapping Bill and new Crime measures passed
Marty Offline
Despite the imminent arrival of Tropical Storm Matthew, several pieces of new legislation, including the Interception of Communications Bill and the Criminal Code Amendment Bill, were pushed through to their third and final reading when the House of Representatives met in Belmopan last Friday, September 24, 2010.

This might have been the first time that a House meeting was held as the country was preparing for the arrival of a storm.

The Bill that got the most attention at the House session was perhaps the so-called Wiretap Bill, known formally as the Interception of Communications Bill that would allow the police to wiretap telephone and other communications of citizens, after a Supreme Court judge signs a wiretap other.

Members from the Opposition side were particularly critical of this particular piece of legislation. But the Opposition Leader had to wage his battle inside the House without three of his parliamentarians who did not attend the meeting; Mark Espat, Cordel Hyde and Florencio Marin Jr. had absented themselves from the House meeting.

Opposition Leader John Briceno said, “Basically what is going to happen is that Big Brother is going to be watching! They are going to be watching on everything that we do.

“Just last year, Mr. Speaker, here in this Honorable House the Honorable Member of Belmopan got up and boasted that he intercepted a copy of my speech and the law doesn’t even exist.

Remember for the budget debate he got up and said, “See, I intercepted your email,” this is already happening even before the law is put in place!”

In rebuttal to Briceno’s presentation, Prime Minister Hon. Dean Barrow told the House the Police Department had provided the government with a long list of wiretap activities dating back to October 1981, shortly after Belize had gotten political independence.

Not only had Prime Minister George Price ordered wiretaps, but his Minister of Home Affairs responsible for the police, C.L.B. Rogers, had signed several of the wiretap warrants.

UDP Minister of Police Curl Thompson had also relied on wiretaps, the record shows.

Barrow also asserted he has the evidence that the Musa administration used wiretaps, to which the former Prime Minister Said Musa, now the Opposition Member for Fort George, replied: “You can have the evidence that our government did so and so, but you can never have evidence that I did anything like that.”

Barrow: “The police also make the point in their report that during the last administration — let’s forget George Price and let’s forget what happened way back when — during the last administration headed by the member of Fort George, the police continued to intercept communication of members of the public; this time doing so without using any warrants. And since it’s not just what the police say. Since we took over Telemedia, you see, it was confirmed to us by Telemedia people that under your last government, Dean Boyce gave instructions upon the request of your government, the government of the member for Fort George ran wires from the exchange at St. Thomas Street to a room on the ground floor of the Raccoon Street police station, and used that infrastructure to tap landlines.”

The government’s new get-tough-on-crime measures take the form of three specific amendments that would hand out stiffer penalties for violators. These were also hotly debated.

The Criminal Code Amendment Bill increased the penalties for rape, attempted murder, carnal knowledge and other violent or sexual offences. The Amendment to the Crime Control and Criminal Justice Act stiffens the penalties for crimes related to gang activities. The amendment to the Firearms Act sets out a whole slew of increase punishment for unlicensed firearm and ammunition possession. The new get-tough measures also raises the threshold for the granting of bail.

Musa weighed in on the new crime prevention measures saying that: “Under this Bill a person charged with being in possession of an unlicensed firearm can be denied bail for up to 2 weeks... that Bill which goes very far to include innocent people, who will be caught in this net of being denied bail for 2 weeks....”

Briceno added, “There is going to be under this, Mr. Speaker, a lot of people who are going to be caught up in the net, taken to the police station and these people, many of them are going to be innocent and have no access to bail. Ministers will know; they are going to be knocking at their door saying that you know my father, my wife, my brother, my sister is in jail and they can’t get bail.

Quite likely they are going to be innocent. I am not talking about the guilty ones, the guilty ones; you are supposed to throw away the key, I don’t have a problem with that.”

As the debate drew to a close, Prime Minister Barrow defended his government’s new law saying that: “When the Leader of the Opposition gets up and he says that in the Bill we are increasing to 14 days the notice that must be given to the bail hearing, he - perhaps I can understand - he is not a lawyer. But then again, this business of your not wanting to go to school comes back to haunt you. Man, the Bill is right in front of you! Before the hearing for application for bail, the court shall be given notice of not less than 10 working days; where do you see 14? Where do you see 14? It say 10 working days, in any event I will forgive the Leader of the Opposition.

“I can’t forgive the member for Fort George, absolutely never ever. All we are doing is to strengthen the provisions of a law that was introduced into the National Assembly and passed by the government headed at the time by the member for Fort George”

Barrow accused Musa of coming down on the side of the criminals and said it is regrettable that some innocent people might get caught in the so-called net, but the government will do what it has to do to bring crime under control.

The Reporter

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#389013 - 10/02/10 03:22 PM Re: Wiretapping Bill and new Crime measures passed [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Phone tapping started 1981 and continued into police basement

Dean Barrow

Despite the threat of Tropical Storm Matthew, the House of Representatives met in full session today. One of the most controversial bills debated and passed will legalize the government’s use of wire tapping or snooping of telephone lines. It did not go down well with the other side of the House. The leader of the opposition, John Briceño, expressed concerns about privacy rights of the public, which in his view is under attack. But the Prime Minister read out a summary of the country’s history with wire tapping which appeared to surprise even Briceño. According to the report compiled by the police department, it seems that fourteen days after the country’s Independence, the first government intercepted phone calls. And according to Barrow, the Father of the Nation George Price also gave the go ahead to do the same. But most of the PM’s tongue lashing was saved for former Prime Minister Said Musa, who he says got BTL to do so on numerous occasions.

Dean Barrow

“The police provided us with a summary of the lawful intercept orders issued by various ministers of internal affairs as it sometimes was, of national security, going back to the fifth of October 1981. Reference your verbal request on today’s date for summary of intercept warrants authorized and directed by previous administrations. Kindly see results as followed. Warrant dated fifth October, 1981 signed by minister C.L.B. Rogers, targeting a particular individuals without the knowledge of the individual which is perhaps expected, but without the cover of any judicial authority without the society knowing that this kind of thing was happening. Warrant dated fifth October 1981 was signed by Minister C.L.B. Rogers extending an earlier warrant issued on the sixth of May 1980. Warrant dated sixteenth March 1982 was signed by Minister of Defense and Home Affairs, C.L.B. Rogers. Another warrant dated sixteenth March 1982 in regards to another target was signed by Minister of Defense and Home Affairs, C.L.B. Rogers. Warrant on dated signed by Minister of Defense and Home Affairs, C.L.B. Rogers extending the warrant of sixteenth March 1982. Warrant dated twenty-sixth July 1983 signed by C.L.B. Rogers. Warrant dated twenty-third October 1984 signed by Minister of Home and Foreign Affairs, V.H. Courtenay. Warranted dated thirty-first December 1985 signed by Curl Thompson—other warrants signed by Curl Thompson. Warrant dated fourth January, 1990 signed by Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Home Affairs and Defense, George Price. Warrant dated twenty-second November, 1990 signed by Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Home Affairs and Defense, George Price. Warrant dated twenty-ninth of November 1990, signed by George Price. Warrant dated twenty-eighth January 1991 signed by George Price. Warrant dated twenty-eighth April 1993 signed by George Price. You know when this stopped? When I became Minister of National Security.

The police also make the point in their report that during the last administration—let’s forget George Price and let’s forget what happened way back when—during the last administration headed by member of fort George, the police continued to intercept communication of members of the public; this time doing so without using any warrants. And since it’s not just what the police say. Since we took over Telemedia, you see, it was confirmed to us by Telemedia people that under your last government, Dean Boyce gave instructions upon the request of your government, the government of the member of Fort George ran wires from the exchange at St. Thomas Street to a room on the ground floor of the raccoon street police station, used that infrastructure to tap landlines. It wasn’t just installation of the equipment for a once and for all basis. Only a certain number of lines could be tapped in any one go. So from time to time, Dean Boyce sent back the BTL technicians to change, so that new lines, different landlines of members of the public could be tapped by the People’s United Party government and the police department at that time. So understand what we are doing man. We are making it so that kind of thing never happens again. If they want, I will produce a list of the subjects that were being tapped. I know I dah mi one. They use to go to the basement at the Raccoon Street Police Station and tap. This da no cell phone. This was…the leader of the opposition look shocked. I hoped he didn’t know that this was something that the then Prime Minister and leader of the party kept from you. I would hope that you are not guilty of what happened.”

Channel 5


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