By Artesia Davis
Nassau Guardian Senior Reporter
NASSAU, Bahamas -- The Privy Council in London has upheld the constitutionality of the Listening Devices Act, the legislation that oversees The Bahamas’ wiretaps laws.
However, the country’s final appellate court directed a magistrate to determine whether those wiretaps were used lawfully during an investigation of accused drug lord Melvin Maycock Sr. and four other men.
US federal prosecutors made a request in 2004 for the extradition of Maycock Sr., Trevor Roberts, Shanto Curry, Sheldon Moore, Devroy Moss and Gordon “Hog” Newbold to Florida for alleged drug trafficking crimes.
In May 2013, then Deputy Chief Magistrate Carolita Bethell ordered the men extradited to stand trial along with Melvin Maycock Jr, Lynden Deal, Bryan Deal, Torrey Lockhart, Laron Lockhart, Wilfred Ferguson, Derek Rigby and Carl Culmer.
As Bethell is no longer a magistrate, The Nassau Guardian understands that Senior Justice Jon Isaacs, who is hearing a challenge to the order for extradition, will investigate whether the limits of the wiretap authorizations were observed.
The judgment delivered by Lord Mance dealt with the constitutionality of the Listening Devices Act, as the evidence supporting the extradition requests were gleaned from telephone intercepts. Lawyers for the men say the wiretap evidence should be excluded because it was obtained illegally.
In a judgment delivered on April 17, the law lords considered several questions regarding the Listening Devices Act.
The first question was whether the wiretap authorizations under section 5(2) of the Act must provide (a) the identity of the person authorized to use a listening device to conduct an investigation into an offence being committed, (b) the date from when such authorized use of a listening device was given and (c) the offence that has been committed or that is about to be, or is reasonably likely to be committed.
The Privy Council ruled that these are all required.
It said the Listening Devices Act gave any authorized person or authority the right to hear, listen or record a private conversation at their absolute discretion or for any use without prior judicial supervision.
The court ruled that the Listening Devices Act satisfied a quantitative test in that it provides essential safeguards and protections consistent with the rule of law in a democratic society.
The Privy Council ruled that the powers given to the commissioner of police under the act did not violate the constitutional right to privacy.
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian