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Legislators raise privacy concerns about Surveillance Bill

Legislators raised a number of issues including privacy concerns connected with the introduction of the new surveillance bill. Photo: VINO
Dr Smith said the bill seeks to provide a legal framework for the operation and retrieval of data from surveillance devices by law enforcement agencies and other persons for the purposes of enhancing law enforcement and to provide for other incidental purposes. Photo: VINO/File
Dr Smith said the bill seeks to provide a legal framework for the operation and retrieval of data from surveillance devices by law enforcement agencies and other persons for the purposes of enhancing law enforcement and to provide for other incidental purposes. Photo: VINO/File
Hon. Julian Fraser questioned whether the benefit of catching a thief was greater than the issue of liberty and freedom being invaded. Photo: VINO/File
Hon. Julian Fraser questioned whether the benefit of catching a thief was greater than the issue of liberty and freedom being invaded. Photo: VINO/File
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI – Third District Representative Hon. Julian Fraser, RA was among several legislators calling for further input into a surveillance bill that some members of the House of Assembly hinted may have been rushed following a recent murder in the Territory.

Premier and Minister of Finance Dr. The Hon. D. Orlando Smith moved a motion to have the bill entitled, “Authorisation of Surveillance Devices Act, 2013” read in the House of Assembly yesterday, May 14, 2013.

Dr Smith said the bill seeks to provide a legal framework for the operation and retrieval of data from surveillance devices by law enforcement agencies and other persons for the purposes of enhancing law enforcement and to provide for other incidental purposes.

Though the bill received support in principle, legislators on both sides of the aisle requested that further adjustments be made, especially in relation to issues dealing with the right to privacy of citizens of the Territory.

Hon. Fraser questioned whether the benefit of catching a thief was greater than the issue of liberty and freedom being invaded. “It is for the architects of this bill and the movers of the bill to convince the public that yes, you have to sacrifice that freedom and liberty in order for us to rid society of these petty criminals,” he argued.

He also objected to a section of the bill that empowered the Governor to designate areas where Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras could be set up to function, contending that the Governor has in many instances in the past delegated his responsibilities to the Commissioner of Police.

The section read, “The system is operated from control centres located at places designated by the Governor by an order published in the gazette.”

Deputy Premier, Dr The Hon. Kedrick D. Pickering, cited similar security models as critical to the economic success experienced in other jurisdictions such as Singapore and Denmark.

At-Large Territorial Representative Hon. Archibald C. Christian said he didn’t feel the bill was perfect, but felt it was a start to something that would guarantee the safety of every citizen of the Territory. “Obviously we would go through in Committee stages, the concerns that we have,” he said, “but at this particular time in our development I see no other option to help us to live safer and happier lives, than to support this bill.”

Leader of the Opposition and Ninth District Representative, Hon. Ralph T. O’Neal, was in agreement that addressing privacy concerns were critical in passing the bills. He also said the bill was actually the work of the Virgin Islands Party (VIP) administration, but there was a hold up since they wanted to be certain that the issue of confidentiality was included.

“We realised that [the bill] was most necessary and the Police have got to be equipped in order to be able to keep abreast of criminals,” he said, “but at the same time we wanted to make sure this system would operate in such a way that it would not affect too much of the citizens’ privacy.”

Other legislators, including Health Minister Hon. Ronnie W. Skelton, Hon. J. Alvin Christopher, Hon. Andrew A. Fahie and Hon. Marlon A. Penn also lent their voices to the debate.

Yesterday’s session of the House of Assembly ended with legislators reviewing the bill in committee stage.

14 Responses to “Legislators raise privacy concerns about Surveillance Bill”

  • FIRE (15/05/2013, 08:45) Like (2) Dislike (3) Reply
    We do not trust the police under morris and the UK officers so please do not pass this bill…
    • concern (17/05/2013, 13:01) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      As a citizen of the BVI, I agree with this bill, there are too many unsolved murders in the BVI and if this is a step towards safety then why not I am suprised at members of the house who is putting privacy over safety this privacy thing is what is destroying us and we need to stop, if our Government is for the people it is quite necessary for them to take the measures necessary to keep us safe remember Hon Officials the criminals are bold so you guys need to wake up
      • for real (17/05/2013, 22:36) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
        How do you think a camera is going to solve a murder? Are you so dumb to believe that these murderers will be so dumb as to committ their acts in front of a camera? Did you not hear that whenever a camera is mounted a sign must be mounted also? What is wrong with you people, don't you all know that men and women has died for their / our individual privacy?
  • ... (15/05/2013, 08:49) Like (6) Dislike (1) Reply
    The police is abusing their powers. They think everyone in the BVI is a crook. and we cannot trust the UK officers
    • yellow (15/05/2013, 09:11) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
      we are heading high speed down a slope for disaster if this bill passes.
  • qc (15/05/2013, 09:06) Like (2) Dislike (1) Reply

    This is a total disrespect for Law and order!

  • Strupes (15/05/2013, 09:36) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    I really want to know, who in the world advising the NDP?
  • ok (15/05/2013, 09:38) Like (1) Dislike (2) Reply
    I a use to be strong NDP supporter never thought I would say this but thank God for the Opposition to bring these as well as other things out because I don't know what the NDP doing right about now.
  • To: Ok (15/05/2013, 11:16) Like (3) Dislike (7) Reply
    Please stop fronting. You were never a strong NDP supporter. the pattern of your comment indicates that.
    You're are only trying to score cheap points for Your friends in the opposition.
  • Mic (15/05/2013, 11:20) Like (5) Dislike (0) Reply
    The Police have a job to do and its either they are allowed to do it and solve crime or crimes would remain unsolved. The BVI has a serious drug trafficking problem and there is no secret that drug money help build a lot of the big homes and big buildings in Tortola. This is no secret.
  • VIlander (15/05/2013, 11:51) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    The disconnection witht he people continues........This bill should not be passed which is primarliy why it will be passed. The NDP has no idea about socail issues concerns or the greater impact on people's lives. When Fraser is the voice of reason we have serious problems.
    • Gasprov (15/05/2013, 14:46) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      @VIslander, you have me confused with the statement you made about Fraser, please explain.
  • His Story (15/05/2013, 14:28) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Yeah, one nation under surveilleance with urine testing for all. Become like ths USA, just lovely.
    You must have people running your territorial government who are mentally ill or just jealous of
    all the intelligence agencies and police agencies the US has - which do NOT make the country any
    better to live in. I'm just a tourist who visited you and really liked it overall and hoped to return
    and be able to stay awhile, all with good will and intentions. I sure hope you don't flush yourselves
    down the toilet of fascisim. Pardon my bluntness.
  • killer (16/05/2013, 07:23) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    This bill should have been kill years ago, anyway, better now than never.


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