The Bermuda Police are subject to the Public Access to Information Act 2010. Whilst he importance of this Act should not be overlooked it is questionable whether it will be of any use or have any teeth. Unlike many countries FoI legislation, Bermuda’s is very restrictive; you have to be a resident to make a request. As a result, those who have a concern or grievance (and may have elected to leave the island or been forced to do so) cannot exercise a right that was available to them as a resident. Additionally, in a small community, the lack of anonymity may discourage requests>
“The main principle behind freedom of information legislation is that people have a right to know about the activities of public authorities, unless there is a good reason for them not to. This is sometimes described as a presumption or assumption in favour of disclosure. The Act is also sometimes described as purpose and applicant blind.”
Openness is fundamental to the political health of a modern state.
However, ‘openness’ has not been embraced by Bermuda historically and it remains to be seen if the islands are simply paying lip-service to a Human Rights requirement.
The Act should give you the right to access recorded information held by public sector organisations such as the Bermuda Police. In the UK, the government first published proposals for freedom of information in 1997. In the white paper ‘Your Right to Know’, the government explained that the aim was a more open government based on mutual trust.
“Openness is fundamental to the political health of a modern state. This White Paper marks a watershed in the relationship between the government and people of the United Kingdom. At last there is a government ready to trust the people with a legal right to information.”
It remains to be seen whether Bermudians will embrace the Act and exercise their rights. Is there complacency among Bermudians? This could prove to be important; unlike the UK Act, the Bermudian legislation is restricted to Bermuda residents – so for those who are about to leave (voluntarily or otherwise) ensure your request is made promptly!
An indication of the requests made of UK Public Authorities can be found at www.whatdotheyknow.com, for example, those about the Metropolitan (London) police can be viewedhttps://www.whatdotheyknow.com/body/the_met. The requests cover such diverse topics as pay, expenses, costs of investigations, staffing firearms … and in Bermuda could include such topics as the research and due diligence undertaken before committing public funds to the current and previous marine craft.
For more information about your rights to information in accordance with The Public Access to Information (PATI) office, click here.