By Esther Durand, BVI News/Staff
Reporting a number of cases involving minors being blackmailed over lewd photos and videos, Premier Andrew Fahie has said the 2019 amendments to the territory’s Computer Misuse and Cybercrime Act is proposing penalties of more than a decade in prison and/or fines of up to half-a-million dollars.
Speaking in the House of Assembly on Thursday, Premier Fahie said he and the Minister for Education Dr Natalio Wheatley have been approached by parents and juvenile victims about being extorted.
“They are being blackmailed that if they go to the authorities or if they do not do certain things, these embarrassing photos and videos will be released to the public,” the Premier said.
He said these parents, who are either too embarrassed to go to the police or do not have the financial means to take legal action, are suffering.
More teeth, greater protection
Premier Fahie, however, said the proposed amendments to the Cybercrime Act will provide greater protection for these individuals and give the legislation what he described as ‘teeth’.
“What this means is persons who are using computers and devices to commit cybercrimes — especially those who believe they have blanket anonymity because they are hiding behind false profile names etcetera — will find that the police will now have the tools to be more effective in coming after them,” Fahie said.
Provisions for harassment, child porn, criminal intimidation
The Premier said the amendment now covers areas such as facilitating abuse of a child online, make electronic records of explicit acts with a child, or introducing a child to an online relationship with another child or adult for a sexually explicit act or in a manner that may offend a reasonable adult.
The amendments also include provisions for harassment, stalking, grossly offensive behaviour, criminal intimidation, blackmail, criminal deception, among other things.
Fines and penalties
For these offences, the Fahie-led government is proposing a term of imprisonment not exceeding seven years, a fine not exceeding $200,000, or both for summary convictions (convictions at the Magistrate’s Court).
If convicted at a higher court, an offender is facing a term of imprisonment not exceeding 14 years, a fine not exceeding $500,000, or both.
Meanwhile, persons who are found guilty of electronic defamation could attract a fine not exceeding $100,000, imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or both if the amendments are implemented.
Massive penalty increase for unlawful access, sharing data
Premier Fahie penalties for obtaining unlawful access, unlawful interception of data and making available device or data will also be severe.
“The proposal is to increase the fine from $10,000 and two years on summary conviction to $200,000 and seven years. And from $50,000 and five years on a conviction of indictment to $500,000 and 14 years,” he said.
As for unlawfully intercepting communication, the Premier said his administration is proposing a seven-year prison sentence and/or an increased fine from $50,000 to $200,000 on summary conviction.
If the offender is convicted in a higher court, he/she could see the penalty climb from $100,000 and/or 10 years in prison to $500,000 and/or 14 years in prison.”
For the offence of ‘making a device or data available’, government is hoping that the penalties will be increased from $40,000 to $200,000 and/or an increase in prison-time from five years to seven years.
If convicted in the High Court, the proposed increase is from $250,000 to $500,000 and/or 15 years imprisonment.
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