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Proposed Cybercrime Bill gets first reading in Parliament

Proposed Cybercrime Bill  gets first reading in Parliament


A Bill seeking to “provide for the creation of offences related to cybercrimes and… related matters” has been given its first reading in Parliament and if passed, could result in a $1 million fine or 15-year imprisonment for its most serious offence.

The Cybercrime Bill 2016, which derived its offences and procedural mechanisms from the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime, was presented to Parliament last Tuesday, May 31, by the Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves.

The Bill outlines 18 offences, which include: illegal access to computer system, illegal remaining in computer system, illegal interception, illegal data interference, illegal acquisition of data, illegal system interference, offences affecting critical infrastructure, illegal devices, identity-related crimes, computer-related forgery, computer-related fraud, violation of privacy, child pornography, harassment utilizing means of electronic communication, spam and spoofing.{{more}}

Should the Bill be passed, offences that affect critical infrastructure (any computer system, device, network, computer programme or computer data that is so vital to St Vincent and the Grenadines that its incapacity, destruction or interference will have a “debilitating impact” on national security and provision of critical services) will incur the most severe penalty – with the offender, if convicted on indictment, slapped with a fine of $1 million or 15 years in prison.

Child pornography

Relating to children under the age of 18 years old, this offence applies to anyone who (through a computer system) produces child pornography for the purpose of its distribution; offers to make available child pornography; distributes/transmits child pornography; procures or obtains child pornography for self or another person; possesses child pornography, or obtains access to child pornography through information and communication technologies.

The offender, on summary conviction, is liable to a fine of $300,000 or three years imprisonment or both; while conviction on indictment can result in a fine of $500,000 or 20 years in prison or both.

Illegal access to computer system

This refers to any person who “intentionally and without lawful excuse or justification, accesses a computer system or any part of a computer system”.

On summary conviction, the individual can be fined up to $200,000 or sentenced to three years imprisonment or a combination of both. However, if convicted on indictment, the fine is $500,000 or seven years imprisonment or both.

Computer-related fraud

This pertains to any person who intentionally and without lawful excuse/justification “…inputs, alters, deletes or suppresses computer data or… interferes with the functioning of a computer system” with the intent of gaining an “economic benefit” for said individual or another, which results in the loss or damage of another person’s property.

On summary conviction, the offender is subject to a $200,000 fine or three years in prison or both. If the conviction is on indictment, there will be a fine of $500,000 or seven years in prison or both.

Violation of privacy

This offence is committed by any individual who captures, stores, publishes or transmits the image of another person without his/her consent.

Under this sub-section, the summary conviction is a fine of $100,000 or two years imprisonment or both. Conviction on indictment is a $250,000 fine or imprisonment for five years or both.

Harassment, utilizing means of electronic communication

Under the Bill, this is an offence committed by anyone who uses a computer system to cyber-bully another person or disseminate information or the image of another – whether true or false – which can damage his/her reputation or subject him/her to public ridicule, contempt, hatred or embarrassment.

Summary conviction is a $100,000 fine or two years in prison or both. Conviction on indictment is a $200,000 fine or five years in prison or both.

In addition to penalties incurred as a result of the offences listed under this Bill, the court can award payment of compensation to the person afflicted, if it (the court) is satisfied that he/she has “suffered loss or damage because of the commission of the offence”.

Additionally, the Cybercrime Bill 2016 addresses investigations and procedures of any related criminal investigation or proceedings, as well as the liability of Internet service providers in such.

Part III Section 21 (b) states that a judge may issue a production order for computer data or other such information from an Internet service provider in SVG “about a person who subscribes to or otherwise uses its service”.

Under this Bill, a court in SVG has jurisdiction, whether the offence is carried out wholly or partly in SVG; wholly or partly on board a vessel or aircraft registered in SVG; wholly or partly outside SVG by a Vincentian citizen or body incorporated under local laws; or wholly or partly outside SVG by a person other than a citizen, if his/her conduct also constitutes an offence under the law of the offender’s country of residence.

Additionally, the Bill stipulates that the offences outlined under Part II are extraditable, with the court seeking the handover of the person accused and/or convicted of the offence (residing in a foreign state) to local jurisdiction.

The Prime Minister announced during last Tuesday’s Parliament that a select committee would convene to discuss the Bill on Monday, June 6.

The select committee comprises the Prime Minister, Minister of Economic Planning Camillo Gonsalves, Minister of Transport and Works Julian Francis, Minister of Agriculture Saboto Caesar, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education Deborah Charles, and Attorney General Judith Jones-Morgan. (JSV)