Review dangerous Cybercrimes Act, urges JCHS chair
Chairman of the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society (JCHS), Dr Wayne, West has called for an immediate review of the amended Cybercrimes Act, labelling the legislation as dangerous and a potential threat to citizens' right to free speech.
The heightened attention on the Cybercrimes Act comes in the wake of the arrest and charge of women's right advocate Latoya Nugent last Tuesday.
Citing Section 9 (1) specifically, which speaks to use of a computer for malicious communication, West has urged lawmakers to revisit the law so as to maintain democracy.
"The wording is such that none of us can say something which cannot in some way be construed to be an offence under that act. It leaves latitude for persons to interpret it in a manner such that many things we say can be regarded as 'threats' or 'menaces'. It is that imprecision that we are very concerned about and we think all citizens should be concerned about it," West told The Gleaner.
He added: "I support her position, as her objective is what the objective of the society should be, no sexual abuse of women and children in society. However, what we (JCHS) are concerned about is the wording of the act under which she was arrested. We believe that the wording of that act is very imprecise, dangerous, and in a democracy that is totally unsatisfactory."
... Fines for using the computer to commit offence much higher
Nugent was arrested and charged with malicious use of computers under the Cybercrimes act by detectives attached to the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigation Branch. She fell ill on Wednesday and was later hospitalised and released on bail pending a trial.
In commenting on the structure of the act, attorney-at-law Bert Samuels stated that such wording has been used in previous legislation, but he said that the fines associated with the Cybercrimes Act are out of line with other laws for the same offence.
He said: "The words ('obscene', 'threat', 'menacing') are forensic and have been used in statutes prior to the Cybercrimes Act. However, the fines and associated jail time are ridiculously high. For example, if I issued a verbal threat to you on a phone or face to face, I'm tried in the Petty Session Court by a justice of the peace and the fine is few thousand dollars or a few days' imprisonment. However, if I do the same via a computer, in the case of a first offence its a maximum fine of $4 million or imprisonment of up to four years or both fine and imprisonment. My view is that Parliament has been overreacting to offences such as scamming and cyber-related crimes."