September 9, 2016

Cybercrime Act now in effect

The Cybercrime Act that was passed into law on Friday, August 12 is now in effect, having been assented to and published in the Government Gazette.

The Act No. 20 of 2016 was assented to by the Governor General’s Deputy, Susan Dougan, on August 22, 2016.

The Act, one of the more controversial to be passed in recent times, underwent substantial amendment during the Select Committee stage.

That, however, was not enough to appease the Opposition and 22 regional and international organisations who, before the Bill was passed into law, called on the Government to review it. According to the organisations, several provisions of the Bill “pose a serious threat to freedom of the press, the free flow of online information, and public debate.“

“In addition to broadening criminal defamation to include online expression, the law also introduces worryingly vague and subjective definitions of cyber-harrassment and cyber-bullying, both of which are punishable by imprisonment,” the organisations said in a release.

During his presentation in Parliament before the Bill was passed, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, however, said that the Bill not only passes constitutional muster, but it is also sound law for the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

He noted that while many persons have been lobbying against criminal libel being included in the Bill, criminal libel has been on the law books for many years in the criminal code. The Prime Minister explained that while criminal libel does exist, the Director of Public Prosecutions has to give his approval before such a charge can be brought against someone.