The Cybercrime Bill 2020 is now a real thing and will soon be brought into law. The Bill went through its second and third reading today in the House of Representatives. What this means is that persons who choose the internet to post scandalous and defamatory photos or videos, once caught, will go straight to jail for up to five years. Imprisonment will not depend on the discretion of the judge but rather the Bill will make prison time a must. In addition to prison time the guilty party or parties will have to be fined as well. Rising in full support of the Cybercrime Bill is Area Representative for Lake Independence, Cordel Hyde.
Cordel Hyde, Area Representative, Lake Independence: “As we discussed in house committee meeting on Wednesday we think this is a long overdue, should’ve been done nearly 15 years ago but the African saying is the best time to find a tree is 20 years ago, the next best time is now. And so we on this side welcome this bill. This bill is comprehensive, game changing, the rules as we know it will never be the same. I think it’s important for us to spell out some to the public what’s inside this bill. No longer will anyone be allowed to take pics of someone’s private parts without their permission and publish that all over social media to harass, ridicule, embarrass or intimidate or blackmail a person. No longer will anyone be allowed to threaten to publish personal private information to extort or cause ridicule or shame to another person. No longer will anyone be allowed to disseminate information they know to be false with the intent to embarrass or harm someone’s reputation. No longer will anyone be allowed to lure children into child pornography or to engage in a sexual conversation with a child. No longer will anyone be allowed to arrange a meeting with a child for the purpose of abusing or engaging in sexual activity with the child even if you take no steps to actually affect this meeting. This legislation and strong, and it’s far reaching. If you commit any of these offenses you will go to jail and you’ll go to jail for long and you will have to pay hefty fines.”
Area Representative for Corozal Southeast Florencio Marin also rose on the presentation of the Cybercrime Bill. According to Marin this Bill is crucial for the protection of children in particular. Meanwhile Stann Creek West Area Representative Rodwell Ferguson spoke on the Police’s ability to follow through with the Bill and says he hopes for the proper and respectful enforcement. Area Representative for Pickstock Wilfred Sedi Elrington rose on the issue of cybercrime saying that a public campaign is underrated and that there is no better time to begin a long-term informational campaign on this issue.
Florencio Marin, Area Representative, Corozal Southeast: “The part about this bill that I really feel passionate about – my wife is a teacher and the issue of child during and many times when she comes home every now and again she speaks of some child at the school who have had unknown people approaching them via Messenger or WhatsApp or that kind of stuff so it is some thing that I can support and I really want to thank the special envoy for the effort she puts.”
Sedi Elrington, Area Representative, Pickstock: “I also support the bill fervently. I have one request though that we find a mechanism to educate the public continuously about the contents of this very important pieces of legislation.”
Collet Representative Patrick Faber also rose on the Bill and spoke on the consultation that took place. He added that the Bill goes beyond pornography and defamation. He says it also includes the manipulation of data, illegal deals and online fraud.
Hon. Patrick Faber, Minister of Education, Youth, Sports and Culture: “I want to again commend my colleague Madam Speaker this to me was a joint venture to get it to this point and of course the legislatures probably have done the least work but we know that it is good work because we’ve sat down and we’ve gone through it in great detail and in fact the changes that we made in the committee were basically to say Madam Speaker that we disagree with those who drafted and brought it to this point that in fact we thought the penalties ought to be stiffer. And we want to send the signal Madam Speaker the these cyber crimes are no joke and I agree with all the colleagues so far who have said we need to educate the population on what these crimes are because people are going about business as usual now since we’ve been exposed to computers and social media and all of this committing these crimes which will now be crimes against people on a daily basis and we need to let them know that it will no longer be tolerated and we need to make them know Madam Speaker that when they are caught doing this that the penalties are going to be stiff. When we say that Madam Speaker you know in legislation sometimes we talk about a penalty, a financial penalty and then we also talk about the possibility of some jail time if the magistrate so feels well the committee felt so strongly about this that we believe that if somebody is convicted, caught intentionally in these offenses Madam Speaker that there should be no discretion on the part of the magistrate, that in fact that person should be forced to pay the penalty and indeed get some prison time as a result of this so we’re sending the signal there is zero tolerance for this kind of thing. You will go to jail and you will have to pay a very stiff financial penalty together it’s not one of the other and so we beefed up as best we could Madam Speaker those penalties and we were careful to categorize the kind of offenses. I’m grateful again to my friend from Lake I for outlining some of those offenses but it is not only those that are related to those offenses of a sexual nature. These cyber crimes have to do with identity fraud, identity theft. You know those things are maybe not as prevalent in Belize as some folks know it to be in other countries but it is coming because our people are being exposed more and more to the technology and this has go to be stopped. So there are levels of the offenses Madam Speaker for instance one of the first offense is listed in the bill is illegal access to a computer system. Well that’s one level but when you go gain access to the computer now and then you access the data and start tampering with the-that’s a completely different offense. So our committee decided well you break into a computer that’s one offense but if you get in there and you manipulate that data that’s a different offense so you should have a heavier charge and then if you use that data and you try to hurt somebody with a data or you cause some ill will to somebody with that data that’s a different offense so there are layers and that is why we did the kind of changes that we did. Madame speaker I agree that we should add every chance, every opportunity and so I’m gonna repeat some of these things for the benefit of the people who need to know. Illegal access to a computer system is an offense, illegal access to the data off that computer will be in the fence. Illegal interference with the data will be an offense. Illegal system interference of that data will be an offense. Illegal interference when you’re interfering with more than just one individual computer, a whole system, a network. Illegal devices and code, this business about pirating is now going to be an offense so if you’re sitting at home and you have a CD or a flash drive that you’re going to push in your brand new computer and somebody has given you codes to load on Microsoft Office and Microsoft Word and Excel and all of that and that code was gathered illegally you are committing an offense, these are things that people in our country do every day and we don’t want them to be caught Madam Speaker without knowing that this is something that is illegal. Computer related forgery, there’s a lot a forgery that goes on with electronic signatures all sorts of things, these things will be now and offense. Identity related theft, stealing people’s identity, pretending to be someone who you’re not especially as it relates to birth papers and so on when those things become digitized as you know the government is moving towards more services electronicwise.
The Bill will go to the Senate on Wednesday for ratification.