Committee reviewing Cybercrimes Act recommends stricter penalties for offences against children
Minister of Science, Energy, Telecommunications and Transport, Daryl Vaz. (Yhomo Hutchinson photo/JIS)

KINGSTON, Jamaica – The Joint Select Committee reviewing the Cybercrimes Act is recommending harsher penalties for offences against a child.

“The Committee supports the recommendation that there should be harsher penalties in relation to offences against children and that there should be a distinction between the penalties for offences committed against children by children and adult offenders,” said Minister of Science, Energy, Telecommunications and Transport, Daryl Vaz.

He said it was recommended that the term of imprisonment be increased from 15 to 20 years for an adult who commits an act where the victim is a child.

Minister Vaz was speaking in the House of Representatives on September 19 where the report of the Joint Select Committee on the Review of the Cybercrimes Act, 2015 was adopted.

Regarding computer-related fraud or forgery, it was recommended that consideration be given to the introduction of an offence or category of offence that treats with the possession, creation or reproduction of electronic copies of forged documents.

“The committee was advised that the forgery of certain documents was considered a felony and attracted custodial sentence for a term of seven years up to life imprisonment, and other documents, if forged, is considered a misdemeanour and attracted a penalty of imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years,” Vaz said.

“Having been made to understand that the Forgery Act is technology-neutral and treats with certain types of forged documents, the committee recommended that the amendments be made to the Forgery Act, to take into account, the creation of an offence generally relating to the possession of forged documents, with the intent to defraud or deceit,” he pointed out.

The minister said the committee expressed concern about the frequent sharing of images of scenes of accidents involving personal injury or death, as this could place the person depicted in the images, their family, and others in distress.

Vaz stated that the committee questioned whether the sharing of these images would be addressed by the Cybercrimes Act, and if not, if a provision could be inserted to address the same.

He said that after careful consideration, the committee noted that Section 9 (1) of the Act, would address the issue, but the intent to harass, cause harm or the apprehension of harm, would have to be proven.

“The committee also took note of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) guidelines for prosecuting cases involving malicious communication… and observed that if the intent could be proven, the person affected could be pursued in a civil lawsuit,” he said.

The committee further recommended that a public education campaign be undertaken regarding the Data Protection Act 2020, which should include content that will assist to dissuade persons from the practice of sharing these types of images.

“The committee also recommends discussion with the police and the Director of Public Prosecutions regarding Section 9 [of the Cybercrimes Act] and how it can be used to address cases reported by citizens,” Vaz said.


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