Phone records quandary

A complaint being investigated by the Office of the Complaints Commissioner has raised questions about exactly who in the Cayman Islands is allowed access to private telephone records.

Complaints Commissioner John Epp has requested the home phone records of a private individual in the course of an investigation of a complaint against a government agency. Mr. Epp declined to discuss the specific nature of the case, but said it involved a ‘very significant’ matter.

The commissioner is asking for the phone records in attempts to determine the specific time calls were made from the individual’s phone to the government agency in question. OCC has previously been allowed to examine call logs of both the landline and cell phone numbers of government departments, but has never requested a private citizen’s phone records.

Officials with Cable and Wireless were uncertain whether it was legal for them to hand over the phone records, and wanted further clarification. Mr. Epp has filed an application with the Grand Court seeking a ruling on the issue.

‘I believe (OCC) can access these records,’ Mr. Epp said. ‘But the Complaints Commissioner Law hasn’t been fully explored and considered.’

Section 15 of the Complaints Commissioner Law (2006 Revision) states: ‘For the purposes of an investigation, the commissioner may require any minister, officer or member of the government entity concerned, or any other person who, in his opinion, is able to furnish information or produce documents relevant to the investigation to furnish any such information or produce any such document.’

‘…for the purposes of any such investigation, the commissioner shall have the same powers as the Grand Court in respect of the attendance and examination of witnesses…and in respect of the production of documents.’

The law governing electronic communications in Cayman, the Information and Communications Technology Authority Law, allows any police officer at or above inspectors’ rank to request telephone records without the benefit of a court order. Refusal to hand over those records upon request to an officer who is attempting to detect or investigate a criminal offence is a crime.

The ICTA Law does not specifically address the question of what authority agencies like the complaints commissioner or auditor general’s office have to request a private individual’s phone records.

Cayman Islands Auditor General Dan Duguay said he’s never made a request for phone records since he was nominated to that post.

‘It’s not clear exactly where my investigatory powers lie,’ Mr. Duguay said. ‘It’s an unexplored area.’