Electronic Crimes Bill Not Yet in Effect

Though it received the approval of both the Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament, the Electronic Crimes Bill is not yet assented to by the Governor General nor has a date of effort being assigned for its commencement.

The Electronic Crimes Bill is among a number of Electronic Bills which required the approval of Parliament to ensure the legality of electronic transactions and services as Grenada put structures in place to make more use of technology as a means of reforming some services offered by the public and private sectors. The other E-bills are: The Electronic Filing Bill; the Electronic Transactions Bill: the Electronic Transfer of Funds Crimes Bill and the Electronic Evidence Bill.

“In the absence of these bills, people who conducted electronic transactions were taking a big risk with their services and finances,” said Senator Christopher DeAllie, who represents the Business community in the Senate. “These Bills are long overdue. In particular, the financial sector, they need those Bills even though they were offering electronic services,” he said.

However, it is the Electronic Crimes Bill which among other things makes it an offence to send offensive messages electronic publicly especially via social media such as Facebook and Twitter, which received criticism and concerns from mainly political supporters and media organizations.

The law said that a person shall not knowingly or without lawful excuse or justification send by means of an electronic system or an electronic device (a) information that is grossly offensive or has a menacing character; (b)information which he or she knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will persistently by making use of such electronic system or a electronic devices; or (c) electronic mail or an electronic message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages.

The Electronic Crimes Bill also makes it an offense for anyone to engage in electronic identity theft; conduct and participate in the distribution of child pornography; engage in prank calls to the law enforcement; participate in electronic stalking; involved or be responsible for spoof and spam emails and other electronic formats; engage in electronic fraud and forgery; participate in electronic terrorism and to violate another person’s privacy.

DeAllie said that though the private sector had concern about the language of the Bill, they do understand the importance of including the section about sending offensive messages. “There are persons who are bent on doing mischief, and even if one may they have redress in the civil court, criminalising such an act is not to attack a group of persons or organisation but providing protection for all,” he said.

“One of our main concern is the speed at which these electronic messages, good or bad, can affect and at the same time endanger others. During our discussion we learnt of a foreign businessman here who had to spend time and money to clear a situation about his name which started in Grenada and affected his business overseas. Those who did it had political motive, knowing  that what was done was untrue. This just cannot be right,” said DeAllie who feels that criminalising the act will deter and reduce the amount of persons who will take engage in such acts.

“We all understand the power of the Internet, and when something wrong goes viral, the damage is done and it’s not easy to repair one’s image when it’s damaged, and that applies to both individuals and corporate bodies,” he said.

Leader of Government Business in the Upper House, Senator Kenny Lalsingh, said that once the Bill is Gazetted, the Minister responsible in agreement with the Cabinet will approve a date of effect. “Until that is done, the Bill will be described as sleeping and cannot be used for legal argument in the court,” he said.

by Linda Straker

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