HEAVIER penalties for cybercrimes were included in the recommendations of a joint select committee of Parliament tabled in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
For offences relating to protected computers, the committee recommended, on conviction before a Circuit Court, a fine and/or a prison term not exceeding 25 years.
Protected computers is a term used in the United States' Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in reference to computers used exclusively by the government or financial institutions. It prohibits a number of different kinds of conduct, generally involving unauthorised access to, or damage to the data stored on "protected computers".
The committee said it felt that offences relating to protected computers should be harshly punished because those activities could cripple the entire country.
On indictment before the Circuit Court, on a first offence, the committee recommended a fine and/or seven years' imprisonment, and where damage is caused as a result of the offence, a fine and/or a term of up to 10 years. In the case of a second offence, a fine and/or imprisonment of up to 15 years.
For unlawfully making available devices or data for commission of an offence, conviction in the Circuit Court would carry a fine and/or up to 10 years, for first offence; fine and/or up to $15 million, when there is any damage as a result of the offence; and a fine and/or imprisonment for up to 20 years for second or subsequent offences.
They recommended a fine not exceeding $3 million and/or a term not exceeding three years for unauthorised access, modification, interception or obstruction, on summary conviction before a Resident Magistrate's Court on a first offence. The penalty is now $2 million and/or two years in prison.
If any damage is caused as a result of the commission of the offence, the committee recommends a fine not exceeding $4 million or imprisonment for up to a four-year term. The penalty is currently $3 million and/or imprisonment for three years.
A second offence would carry a fine of $5 million, and/or imprisonment for not less than five years.
Fines and/or prison terms for offences by bodies corporate and false statements by persons required to preserve data were also included.
The committee also raised the issue of stalking, suggesting new legislation specific to stalking, and including cyber stalking, as well as other forms of stalking.
Another issue raised by the report was the fact that, with the Act being in operation for over three years, there has only been one prosecution under its provisions.
"It is the hope of the committee that with the recommended revisions, subsequent to the review, more persons found to be in breach of the Act will be brought to book and successfully prosecuted," the report said. However, the committee noted that cyber offences usually involve "some kind of economic elements, or some types of economic gains".
The committee, on January 24, started the review of the Jamaican Cybercrimes Act which was promulgated in December 2010.
The Act provides for criminal sanctions for misuse of the computer system or data, and the abuse of electronic means of completing transactions. It also facilitates the investigation and prosecution of
Several other pieces of legislation are also utilised in prosecuting offences under the Cybercrimes Act, including the Larceny Act, the Interception of Communications Act, the Child Pornography Act and the Evidence Act.