Opposition lawmaker Mark Vanterpool wants the newly-proposed penalties for cyber-related offences tweaked before the legislation under which it falls — Computer Misuse, and Cyber Crime Amendment Act of 2019 — is passed in the House of Assembly.
The 2019 amendments to the Act is proposing major penalty increases of more than a decade in prison and/or fines of up to half-a-million dollars for cyber offenders.
“I am not saying that they are wrong but when I hear of the $200,000 and $500,000 [fines] and seven years in prison and 14 years in prison, it might be justifiable. But I want to say when we are passing these bills, it sounds good until our cousin, our brother, our friend happens to fall in it,” Vanterpool argued while contributing to the debate on the legislation recently.
“I am suggesting that we take our time through a subcommittee to go through the bill clearly to ensure that we are covering our bases,” he said.
Proposed penalties could work for high-profile cases
The opposition legislator said those types of penalties would be better served for more high profile cases such as incidents like the Panama Papers leak.
And while responding to claims from Premier Andrew Fahie that the proposed fines and terms of imprisonment are meant to deter cyber offenders, Vanterpool said it would be excessive to impose such penalties on a person who sends or forwards an inappropriate message.
“I am not going to accept those sized penalties are just deterrents. We need to be careful because these things are wrong and should not happen. But let’s be careful how we deal with them when they do happen,” he said.
Persons who exploit kids should face stiff penalties
On the other hand, Vanterpool said cases involving the exploitation of children are ‘different altogether’.
“When you are messing with children and not giving them a chance to become an adult, and you interfere with that, I think then that’s a terrible crime. So we need to let people know there’s no joke about that and we need to ensure that when you infringe on that level, you are treading in the wrong direction,” he argued.
The legislator also referred to Jeffrey Epstein, the 66-year-old billionaire and owner of Little St James in the USVI who is accused of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls.
“We need to have penalties that if someone like that was caught here in that kind of crime, then we can exercise some stiff penalties,” Vanterpool said.
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