A government bill allowing the court-ordered lifting of communications privacy will not be used for ‘fishing expeditions’, Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said on Thursday, seeking to allay concerns that it could be abused by the authorities.
The bill allows authorities access to written communications such as emails, text messages, and online chats.
It permits authorities to gather information, following a court order, for cases relating to drug trafficking, human trafficking, corruption, homeland security, and monetary stability.
“There is no question of fishing for evidence as some MPs have assumed,” the minister said.
He made it clear that court orders allowing access to someone’s communications will not have a timeframe but will be a one-off.
“If we specify a timeframe we will achieve the opposite of what we are seeking,” Nicolaou said.
Allowing the warrant to be valid through a certain period of time essentially meant keeping it for other reasons beyond the ones it was issued, he said.
“The other reasons are not allowed in such cases and the court does not accept evidence collected this way because it considers it to be tainted,” Nicolaou said.
The bill provides that the warrant will be issued for a search of a particular place once and it could not be used a second time.
That would require a second warrant, the minister said.