Phone tap, e-mail snoops OK

    Regulations allow telecom intercept

    Main Lead Picture

    New rules allow “any person employed by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service to intercept a message in relation to a matter or person” for the purposes of gathering intelligence. 

    The interception of the message – which can include any form of communication such as telephones, post, e-mail, text messages and the like – must be authorised by a warrant issued directly from Cayman’s governor. The warrant would have to be addressed to the RCIPS commissioner who can then authorise a police service employee to execute it.  

    Under the regulations, known as the Information and Communications Technology Authority {Interception of Telecommunication Messages) Regulations, 2011, the governor would need a specific reason for issuing such a warrant. Those include: the interests of national security, preventing or detecting serious crime, averting an imminent threat to human life, for circumstances that fall within the scope of international mutual assistance agreements, or to safeguard the economic well-being of the Cayman Islands.  

    The regulations also state that the governor must be “satisfied that the interception of the message is proportionate to the ends sought to be achieved by intercepting the message and the information sought to be obtained cannot be obtained by other less intrusive means”.  

    Warrants issued by the governor must state the facts that constitute the grounds for issuing the document, details of the person or premises to which the request relates, a description of the messages to be intercepted, details of the communications service provider, and supporting evidence that the request is urgent – in cases where the application is said to be urgent.  

    Urgent warrant applications can be issued verbally and only last up to 24 hours after issuance. Otherwise, all other applications to the governor must be made in writing.  

    According to the Interception of Telecommunication Messages regulations, no evidence can be adduced or disclosure made for the purposes of any legal proceeding or proceeding of a Commission of Inquiry. That means intelligence gathered in the course of any communications interception activities cannot be used in a court or formal inquiry proceeding. An intercepted communication is defined as “any communication intercepted in the course of its transmission by means of a postal service or telecommunications system”.  

    Also, there is no provision in the regulations for oversight of warrants by the courts. The regulations do establish an audit committee to periodically review the governor’s issuance of warrants under the regulations, but that review would occur only after the warrant is granted. 

    “The new regulations do not give police a free hand in monitoring anyone’s communications,” a statement from the RCIPS read. “The regulations provide robust checks and balances.” 

    Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin, an attorney, disagrees with the ‘robustness’ of those checks.  

    “There is no judicial oversight of this,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “There is this very cosy committee of two [referring to the governor and the police commissioner]. 

    “There are justifiable reasons for police doing this, but we know that the UK doesn’t always act honourably.”  


    ICTA Law   

    According to officials with the Information and Communications Technology Authority, Cayman’s governor has always maintained the ability to issue communications interception warrants under his reserved powers in the Constitution.  

    Controversial amendments to the country’s Information and Communications Technology Authority Law in 2003 simply made it legal for individuals to serve such warrants.  

    Section 75 of the ICTA Law (2010 Revision) states that it is a crime for a person to intentionally intercept, alter or replicate, monitor or interrupt a message during its transmission. 

    However, it is a defence under the law if that message was intercepted “in obedience to a warrant or order issued by the governor”.  

    Section 97 of the ICTA Law gives Cabinet the ability to make regulations for the law, which covers the Interception of Telecommunications Messages regulations approved earlier this month.  

    Former government minister Gilbert McLean said the newly drafted regulations at least set a standard by which government can issue warrants for communications surveillance.  

    “It’s a formalisation of what had been there all along,” Mr. McLean said. “What took place before is really anybody’s guess.”  

    In 2003, local lawmakers objected to the wording contained in what is now section 75 of the ICTA Law. According to Hansard records from a 1 October, 2003 debate in the Legislative Assembly, then-M 

    inister Linford Pierson said: “It is my view … that any interception of a telephone line should be done on the order of a judge of the Grand Court for various reasons.” 

    However, that wording was never changed and the amendments to the law were eventually passed – partially because of the urgency at the time of opening Cayman’s telecommunications market to competition.  

    Former government minister and current UCCI President Roy Bodden said it’s a concept he still does not support today.  

    “If anything, my objections would be more vehement against it now, if it comes under the blanket of ‘well, it’s for peace and good order,’” Mr. Bodden said.  

    Deputy Governor Donovan Ebanks said it remains within lawmakers’ power to change the ICTA Law if they wish.  

    “Whenever the government wants to resume the battle they abandoned in 2003, they can resume it,” he said last week. 


    The ICTA Law and accompanying regulations do not apply to the interception of messages on a telecommunication system provided by an employer to an employee. Many private companies already reserve the right to scan employee e-mails, phone records and text messages and the regulations do not interfere with that.  

    Also, nothing in the regulations prevents the Cayman Islands prison service director from intercepting inmate communications for “the good order of the prison”, which is already allowed under the Prisons Law.  

    Prisoners do maintain the right to communicate privately with their attorneys.  

    If the governor issues a warrant under the regulations, the police commissioner is allowed to amend the document, but those changes must be reviewed and approved again by the governor.  

    Other local law enforcement agencies such as the Immigration Department, the Customs Service, and the Prison Service can request warrants from the governor for the purposes of intercepting communications, but those requests must be made through the commissioner of police and carried out by a police service employee.  


    The RCIPS can now listen in on your calls as well as peek into your email.
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    1. OK, you might not like it, but remember folks, they have to have a reason AND subsequent search warrant. So if you are behaving and the law has no interest in you, then you don’t need to be concerned. The police need all the help they can get in solving crime — robberies and murders on the island are out of control — and all of these people say things on their cell that would help the police capture them. You can’t cry about the police not being able to capture these criminals one minute, then cry foul when they try every means available to try to track the criminals down. They have to do what they can to make Cayman a safe place once more.

    2. I have one word for this lets fight crime initiative. It is CONTROL. Cayman, dont be surprised that this UK government start spying on everybody who protest agianst it, because of some makeup reason for our national security. Yes, we have to fight crime, but people, remember who is running this government.

    3. The governor’s office is only now are just the people of the Cayman Islands that their privacy is ow being invaded. I wouldn’t hold my breath if the execution of this new law will be used soly for the purposes they claim to be set out by the Governor. Cayman has a long history of political manipulation and I agree with Mr. Roy Bodden, this law should not be supported. Many serious incidents have taken place in the Cayman Islands and no concern shown by the powers that be. so what in the world do they need this new service for to be bullied by Big Mac? We’re not convinced anything will come out of the so called investigations, so We could very well now have the same status as the people in China and Cuba.
      Regarding the new phone tapping, there must be a genuine need to keep Cayman safe, but we will have to see how that will work.
      Here’s what I think has n happening. I am of the opinion that somebody has already way before making this announcement on yesterday been snooping and intercepting emails of Caymanians and others who see government for what it is and speaks out. Would the Governor please explain why this happened?.
      Ezzard and Alden you better not only speak up but not sit idly by and let them ram this down the people’s throats. There’s no guarantee the info will not be used just to victimize people who criticize the Comm of police or the Premier. Cayman’s two most criticized individuals. Is there a real investigation of the premier going on or have they teamed up on us?

    4. This is way over the top, democracy has eroded from these Islands. It is time to take a stand against the corruption and political manipulation, not to mention victimization. These Islands are gone and what really scares me, looks like it’s no coming back!! This is very uncalled for and a complete invasion of privacy!!
      You know this why no one wants to help the Police, they see them as enemies and corrupt, not as a protector of the country and people , enough said…..!!

    5. Seems a perfect way to inspire confidence among international clients that their privacy is being protected in Cayman.
      Phone tapping should only be permitted with a court order, not issued solely by the governor.

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