Speaking at a news conference at the Parliament today, the Opposition Leader said the Bill is a gross violation of fundamental Constitutional rights.
This Bill, she noted, will affect Legal Professional Privilege. “The interference with the right to the confidence of privileged communications with one’s lawyer seriously undermines the rule of law, and the removal of Legal Professional Privilege takes us down a dictatorial and draconian state.”
“The exception for this being in designated places makes no sense because a device may not say and cannot say where the recording took place,” she said. “There may be conversations with lawyers which can be intercepted and there is no way of telling where these conversations took place.”
“There is a long-standing public interest factor in the maintaining and protecting the long-established right to legal professional privilege,” the Opposition Leader said. “Legal Professional Privilege is a fundamental human right long established in the common law.”
Mrs. Persad-Bissessar noted that the Bill seems to be based on some derivative of UK Legislation, however, the UK law has protections for:
- Members of Parliament etc.
- Items subject to legal privilege
- Confidential journalistic material
- Sources of journalistic information
These protections are missing in this Bill.
Additionally, she noted that in the UK law, there is a multi-tiered safety and review system built into Part 8 of their Act. “Given the type of intrusion and trampling on constitutional rights that will necessarily result from any passing of this type of legislation, the appropriate safeguards and protections must be built in,” she said.
The Opposition Leader noted that Clause 6 of the Bill seeks to amend S.6 of the Parent Legislation by widening the use of intercepted information, not only in Criminal Proceedings, as was listed in the Parent Bill, but to now include any proceedings ,i.e. Civil proceedings as well as any other tribunal proceedings. Where the State can now intercept communication, they are now at a superior advantage compared to the ordinary litigant.
The Opposition Leader said the Bill in its current form is a dangerous piece of legislation. She reiterated that the Opposition will always defend the constitutional rights of every citizen of Trinidad and Tobago.