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Cybercrime Bill passed into law

Cybercrime Bill passed into law

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The Cybercrime Bill was passed into law last Friday, but not without resistance from Opposition parliamentarians.

During his presentation, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said that he is satisfied as a lawyer with over 30 years experience that the Cybercrime Bill not only passes constitutional muster, but is also sound law for the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).

He noted that before it was passed, amendments were made to the Bill after listening to people’s concerns.{{more}}

One of the amendments is that Clause 23, which dealt with interception of data, has been completely removed.

“I heard it being said that they can simply go and intercept anything you have…I have made the point that I am not going to support electronic surveillance.”

Additionally clauses 16, 17, 18 and 19 have all had changes made to them.

Gonsalves noted that words such as “humiliation”, “self-esteem”, and “emotional well-being” have been removed in the most talked about clause, clause 17.

“We consider them somewhat inadequate, maybe even vague,” he said.

He also noted that while many persons have been lobbying against criminal libel being included in the Bill, criminal libel has been on the law books for many years in the criminal code.

Gonsalves explained that while criminal libel does exist, the Director of Public Prosecutions has to give his approval before such a charge can be brought against someone.

“Surely the Parliament would be irresponsible to have criminal libel in the criminal code, but don’t have it in relation to the Internet.”

Clause 47, which states that the Act will be reviewed three years after its commencement, has been added.

Additionally, many of the penalties have been reduced and in most cases have decreased by 50 per cent. Penalties for Clause three, the illegal acquisition of data, were reduced by 50 per cent, from $200,000 to $100,000.

Despite all the amendments and changes to the Bill, Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace still holds that neither he nor his party would support the bill. Eustace, in his contribution, stated that the Government should not focus its attention on the Cybercrime Bill, but on developing the economy.

“Get our people back to work, reduce our rate of unemployment, try as best you can to reduce the level of our debt, try as much as you can to improve our education…that is what we need to deal with in the circumstances. When we do, then I have time with Cybercrime.

“This, for me, is not priority; important but it’s not a priority. There are many more things that need to be addressed,” he added.

He did also state that there are parts of the Bill with which the Opposition agree and described the bill ‘quite interesting’ and one of the first Bills since the 2009 constitutional reform that sparked so much public interest.

He, however, also noted that this is one of the few times that international organizations have had to write with concern about a law being passed.

Eustace also noted that while many of penalties have been substantially decreased, the cost was still extremely high, given the economic climate in which we live.

“Anybody who faces one of these crimes only have one choice, go jail. How real is that? What this says to you if you can’t find $100,000 or you could get the $100,000 and the jail in some instances.

“While there have been some reductions in the fines, this whole schedule should be re-examined,” the Opposition Leader said. (CM)

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