The Electronic Crimes Bill which since receiving the approval of the Lower House of Parliament last week Friday has become the subject of many debates locally, regionally and internationally, is among bills to receive the approval of the Upper House on Wednesday 10 July 2013.
There are sections of the Bill which are seen as violating the constitutional right to free expression and speech because it criminalises the sending of offending message electronically. Under this new Bill a person found guilty of sending an offensive message will be charged a maximum of EC$100,000 or face three years imprisonment.
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.
For the purpose of this section, the term “electronic mail” or “electronic message” means a message or information created or transmitted or received on an electronic system or electronic device including attachments in text, images, audio, video and any other electronic record which may be transmitted with the message.
However, because of the outpouring of concern Government has given the assurance that it is committed to looking at the section to ensure that in no way free internet comment is either inhibited or by any slightest measure, threatened.
A statement from the Government Information Service said that Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell has asked his legislative team to review all sections of the bill to ensure that it remains consistent with his commitment of not just protecting open debate and dialog, but to reflect the new commitment to broaden patterns of democracy that will be reflective in other upcoming legislation.
“We are confident that at the end of the process we will have legislation that will deal with issue of cyber crime, identify theft, child pornography and electronic stalking without infringing, or undermining public debate or any matters attendant to an open, free and democratic society,” said the statement.
Any amendments made to the Bill in the Upper House sitting will result in it having to return to the Lower House for its approval.
The other Bills scheduled to go through all stages in the sitting are: the Electronic Filing Bill, 2013; Electronic Transactions Bill, 2013; Electronic Transfer of Funds Crimes Bill, 2013 andElectronic Evidence Bill, 2013
by Linda Straker