UPDATED: April 28, 2012
BFP revisits another one of those ‘dropped off the face of the earth’ stories.
Can anyone tell us the outcome of Commissioner of Police Dottin being accused of illegal wiretapping two years ago? The whole story just disappeared from the Bajan news media. Maybe we missed the final story… maybe Dottin was proven innocent? OR… was some secret resolution arrived at?
Welcome to the Bajan news media – your filter on the world whether you know it or not…
Original story published June 28, 2010…
Police Commissioner Dottin claims “national security” as reason for non-disclosure of wiretaps.
A suspended Royal Barbados Police Force officer claims in an affidavit before the Supreme Court that Commissioner Darwin Dottin conducted illegal wiretapping against him during an internal investigation. (See The Nation article Phone Bug? – also at the end of this article)
There is little doubt that police wiretapping of RBPF Inspector Anderson Bowen’s phone conversations happened. Bowen states in his affidavit that Commissioner Dottin played the phone recordings for him during an internal investigation interview. The phone tappings took place at Bowen’s home, his mother’s home and at Black Rock police station.
Whatever alleged crime that Commissioner Dottin was investigating, our primary concern is whether or not this wiretapping was legal. I mean, our police can’t just go off and wiretap anyone they want to …or can they?
Can the Royal Barbados Police Force wiretap at police discretion without a judicial order?
We might be wrong folks, but it looks to us like our Barbados police CAN legally wiretap your phone or look at your email and internet data for just about any reason they choose – without a warrant, without any judicial oversight and without ever informing you!
You have to understand that your BFP crew are not lawyers, and we’re happy to have some input from our readership – but this is what it looks like to us so far.
We found two primary pieces of Barbados law that touch upon the issue of “wiretapping” or the secret interception of electronic communications in all forms by the Barbados police or ordinary citizens. This first is our Constitution and the second is the Telecommunications Act. The Computer Misuse Act is a third law but it seems to deal with seizure of computers and data devices, not the interception of data or conversations by the police unless there is a breach of the act itself. In other words – the police cannot obtain a Computer Misuse Act warrant to obtain computer data to assist in (for instance) a drug or murder investigation.
Constitution of Barbados
Nothing in our Constitution talks directly about police intercepting private communications, but Section 20 seems to fit.
Section 20(1) of our Constitution (excerpt at the end of this article) would seem to protect our rights to “freedom to communicate ideas and information without interference and freedom from interference with this correspondence or other means of communication.”
So far, so good, but then the next passage takes those rights away when “reasonably required in the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health;…”
BFP’s analysis: Your right to communicate privately can be set aside by the police or other authorities (including the military) if “reasonably required”. Not much protection there for the ordinary citizen unless some other laws regulate the powers of the police or military.
Telecommunications Act of Barbados
The definition of “telecommunications” in this law isn’t just your telephone calls, it includes anything including text (emails, text messages), images (photos), sounds (talking) and “other intelligence” – which sounds to us like just about anything sent electronically by any means including your home, business and mobile phones, radio communications and everything on the internet.
Now that we know what this act regulates everything sent electronically, let’s see what it says about intercepting these electronic signals (ie: listening in on someone’s phone calls or reading their emails.)
Section 82(1) (excerpt at the end of this article) makes it against the law for anyone to intercept any communication without the authorisation of the sender or lawful user or to use unlawfully intercepted communications. You can go to jail for 3 years for unlawfully tapping someone’s phone or reading their emails.
So far so good, but then Section 82(2) takes it all away by letting the police listen in…
“(2) Paragraphs (b) and (c) of subsection (1) do not apply in relation to the Royal Barbados Police Force acting in the lawful execution of its duties in accordance with any law or enactment.”
Do the Barbados Police need a warrant to tap your phone, read your emails?
Once again, we remind folks that we aren’t lawyers and we’d love some help on this, but we examined the Telecommunications Act and there is nothing about a judge having to issue a warrant to the police to authorise the police to intercept your communications.
The only warrants or search warrants mentioned are when the police want to enter a premises to seize equipment that someone else is using to unlawfully intercept communications. Then a magistrate can issue the police a search warrant to seize equipment. There is no power or procedure in the Telecommunications Act for a magistrate to issue a warrant authorising the police to intercept telecommunications.
Under the Telecommunications Act, officers of the Royal Barbados Police Force need no judicial authorisation to tap your phone.
The police authorise themselves to tap your phone if they believe it is necessary in their “lawful execution” their duties. There is no law that says the police have to inform you that they tapped your phone or read your email, and there is no law requiring the police to inform anyone – including the courts – that they did so.
That’s our conclusion after reading the Constitution and the Telecommunications Act. If there is another law out there that requires the Barbados police to obtain a judicial warrant to tap our phones or read our emails, we’d love to hear about it.
Why should citizens be concerned about police authorising their own wiretapping and internet snooping?
Don’t forget folks: this is the same Royal Barbados Police Force that remains silent after shooting innocent people in the head. This is the same police force that arrests Bajan journalists for reporting on crooked cops. This is the same police force that, according to Madame Justice Maureen Crane-Scott as recently as last Saturday, behaved in a “disgraceful” manner by beating a confession out of an arrested citizen.
Do you trust the Barbados police to authorise themselves to listen to your phone calls and read your emails?
How many wiretaps and email interceptions have the police done in the past five years?
Answer: Neither you, nor the courts nor Parliament have any right in law to know how many times the police wiretap, their reasons for doing so or the outcomes. The police are a power unto themselves as far as intercepting our private communications and it’s all legal!
Once again, let’s have some input here from our readers. We’ve researched the laws as best as we can but we’re not lawyers. If there is a law that requires the Barbados police to obtain warrants to intercept private communications and authorises judges to issue those warrants, please let us know.
Here are some of the excerpts and resources used in writing this article:
Telecommunications Act (excerpt)
82. (1) A person who knowingly (a) obstructs or interferes with the sending, transmission, delivery
or reception of any communication;
(b) intercepts or procures another person to intercept, without the authorisation of the provider or user, or otherwise obtains, or procures another person to obtain, unlawful access to any telecommunication or copies or causes to be copied any telecommunication;
(c) uses the content of any communication, or having reason to believe that such content was obtained through interception or access in contravention of paragraph (b); or
(d) manufactures or sells any network, equipment, card, plate or other device, or produces, sells, offers for sale or otherwise provides any account number, mobile identification number or personal identification number, for the purpose of fraudulent use of or access to any telecommunications service,
commits an offence and is liable on conviction on indictment to a fine of $250 000 or to imprisonment for 3 years or to both and, in the case of a continuing offence, to a further fine of $10 000 for each day that the offence continues after conviction.
(2) Paragraphs (b) and (c) of subsection (1) do not apply in relation to the Royal Barbados Police Force acting in the lawful execution of its duties in accordance with any law or enactment.
Constitution of Barbados (excerpt)
20. (1) Except with his own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of expression, and for the purposes of this section the said freedom includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference, freedom to receive ideas and information without interference, freedom to communicate ideas and information without interference and freedom from interference with correspondence or other means of communication.
(2) Nothing contained in or done under the authority of any law shall be held to be inconsistent with or in contravention of this section to the extent that the law in question makes provision-
(a) that is reasonably required in the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health; or
(b) that is reasonably required for the purpose of protecting the reputations, rights and freedoms of other persons or the private lives of persons concerned in legal proceedings, preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, maintaining the authority and independence of the courts or regulating the administration or technical operation of telephony, telegraphy, posts, wireless broadcasting, television or other means of communication or regulating public exhibitions or public entertainments; or
(c) that imposes restrictions upon public officers or members of a disciplined force.
Article From The Nation
You really should read the article at the Nation News website, but as usual we’ll reprint the full piece here because The Nation and other Bajan news media have a bad habit of removing or changing news to suit various agendas…
BY: WADE GIBBONS
AN AFFIDAVIT before the Supreme Court, calling for judicial review of an internal disciplinary police matter, has accused Commissioner of Police Darwin Dottin of authorising unlawful recordings of telephone conversations (wiretapping).
The allegation was one of several accusations lodged by suspended Inspector of Police Anderson Bowen, and the affidavit names Dottin as first respondent and the Office of the Attorney General as second respondent.
When contacted by the WEEKEND NATION, Bowen declined to comment.
According to a copy of the court document, Dottin has been cited by Bowen for at least twelve (12) instances of wiretapping.
These include telephone conversations emanating from Black Rock Police Station, his St Philip residence and the home of his deceased mother, Velda Gittens, formerly of Wavell Avenue, Black Rock, St Michael.
Bowen alleged in the affidavit that Dottin played the taped recordings to him while in the latter’s office at Central Police Station. The tapes were allegedly germane to an internal investigation.
The WEEKEND NATION was also able to acquire a copy of Dottin’s signed affidavit in which he responded to charges that were levelled against him, categorically denying most of them.
However, Dottin did not deny the charges relating to the wiretapping but linked the alleged action to national security.
In Dottin’s affidavit, responding specifically to the wiretapping allegations, he said: “With respect to the tape-recorded conversations referred to in paragraphs 22 to 32 of the applicant’s affidavit, I have formed the opinion that it is not in the public interest to disclose these as I believe that such disclosure would cause real damage in relation to the security of the island of Barbados.”
Acting Attorney General Michael Lashley told the WEEKEND NATION the Bowen/Dottin civil matter was before the court and he would not comment on the wiretapping allegations at this stage. However, he said when those proceedings were completed and there were issues to be looked at “that would be done”.
Attempts to reach Dottin yesterday were not successful.