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Cyber Crime bill came back from ‘graveyard of bills’- Premier Fahie

- Says bill went through democratic process & is urgently needed in VI
Despite opposition from the international media, Premier and Minister of Finance, Honourable Andrew A. Fahie (R1) is adamant that the bill entitled ‘Computer Misuse, and Cyber Crime Amendment Act of 2019’ went through the democratic process and should be assented to with urgency. Photo: VINO/File
The 'Cyber Crime' bill is with Governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert, awaiting his assent. Photo: VINO/File
The 'Cyber Crime' bill is with Governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert, awaiting his assent. Photo: VINO/File
The bill entitled ‘Computer Misuse, and Cyber Crime Amendment Act of 2019’ is being labelled as one of the most ventilated bills in the Virgin Islands and one which holds the distinction of surviving a Special Select Committee, considered the graveyard of bills in the VI. Photo: VINO/File
The bill entitled ‘Computer Misuse, and Cyber Crime Amendment Act of 2019’ is being labelled as one of the most ventilated bills in the Virgin Islands and one which holds the distinction of surviving a Special Select Committee, considered the graveyard of bills in the VI. Photo: VINO/File
Director of Advocacy at the International Press Institute, Ravi R. Prasad has expressed concern with the Computer Misuse, and Cyber Crime Amendment Act of 2019, citing that if the changes come into law it would be used to prosecute and silence the media in the Virgin Islands. Photo: International Press Institute
Director of Advocacy at the International Press Institute, Ravi R. Prasad has expressed concern with the Computer Misuse, and Cyber Crime Amendment Act of 2019, citing that if the changes come into law it would be used to prosecute and silence the media in the Virgin Islands. Photo: International Press Institute
WICKHAM’S CAY I, Tortola, VI- Premier and Minister of Finance, Honourable Andrew A. Fahie (R1) has blasted free speech entities who are attempting to stall the assenting of the Computer Misuse, and Cyber Crime Amendment Act of 2019 by citing that if the changes come into law it would be used to prosecute and silence the media in the Virgin Islands.

The Premier told journalists on Monday, January 20, 2020, during a press conference at Village Cay Marina, that the amendments went through Cabinet, passed in the House of Assembly with three readings, including a debate, and “I am confident that the most democratic process has been taken place through the [Computer Misuse and] Cyber Crime Amendment Act and it should be assented to.”

The Premier added that the bill even went to a Special Select Committee of the House.

‘Bill came back from graveyard’

“Can I tell you that anything that went into that Committee never came out back before in the history of me being in politics? The Special Select Committee,” Premier Fahie said, adding that the bill came out from the “graveyard” for bills with a report.

“And it was the first time that the Select Committee sent a report back to the House, because normally that is called the graveyard of bills...nothing comes out, it came out.

“And when it came out it was such a shock to the House, and the law to use to get it recommitted to the House was never used [that] we had to take a break to find out what law is used to get it back into the House.”

The Premier emphasised that the bill was totally ventilated “just like the other times, clause by clause, page by page, word by word, spot by spot... now you tell me that this was the most ventilated bill in the history of the Virgin Islands, what could possibly pop up that should not have been seen before by any entity even those who have concerns now? When everybody had a chance to deal with it from the onset,” he asked.

“It was nothing that was speed up or rushed.”

The bill is currently with Governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert, who has to assent to it before it becomes law.

‘Media too has to be held accountable’

Continuing his “vent”, Premier Fahie said with the current climate journalists must be mindful of what they write for public consumption.

He also admitted that he has been written to by a concerned media entity and he has responded.

“Yes, there were some concerns named, and I wrote back, and yes that bill needs to be assented to because while we are playing games, young people’s lives are being destroyed. I respect the freedom of the media, but research has shown that the media too has to be held accountable for some of what they print. It is not saying that the media cannot print. It is saying that the media or anybody who disseminates incorrect information, the fine will be high,” he said.

“Well, some of you in the media will say: ‘that’s a little high", but how do you repair a man’s reputation when you are finished destroying it? What cost could you put unto his reputation and even if you say “sorry”, how does that irrevocable damage be dealt with?”

Fines are ‘higher than normal’

The Premier then admitted that the penalties under the bill are not the norm.

“Yes, the fines were higher than normal, yes the penalties were higher than normal but the problem that we have is worse than normal. And, to deal with an unconventional problem, you have to do an unconventional solution. The only people who have to worry about the [Computer Misuse and] Cyber Crime Amendment Act is those who intend to be malicious, whether it be the media or the regular citizen in the BVI.”

Some of the amendments to the bill include a fine not exceeding $100,000, imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or both if the modifications are implemented for persons found guilty by a court of law for electronic defamation.

For obtaining unlawful access, unlawful interception of data and making available device or data, “The proposal is to increase the fine from $10,000 and two years on summary conviction to $200,000 and seven years. And from $50,000 and five years on a conviction of indictment to $500,000 and 14 years,” Hon Fahie said last August in the House of Assembly.

If someone unlawfully intercepts communication, Premier Fahie stated that his administration wants that person to spend seven years behind bars and or an increased fine from $50,000 to $200,000 on summary conviction. However, if that person is tried before the High Court, they could face up to 14 years in prison or a fine of $500,000.

For someone who is found guilty of ‘making a device or data available’, the amendments will provide the courts with the power to increase the fine from $40,000 to $200,000 and or impose a prison term on that individual from the previous five years to seven years in the magistrate’s court.

However, for the same crime, if tried at the High Court, that offender could pay $500,000 or 15 years in jail.

Other concerns with Bill

“Governments around the world are currently using these kinds of insult and cybercrime laws to prosecute reporters and silence independent media. If the BVI leaves this possibility open to current or future administrations, it has the potential to create a chilling effect on the territory’s journalists,” Director of Advocacy at the International Press Institute, Ravi R. Prasad said in a statement on December 2, 2019.

“If given final assent, these proposed amendments would send a shiver down the spines of journalists working in the British Virgin Islands,” he added.

The International Press Institute was one of the global entities that spoke out on the issue.

8 Responses to “Cyber Crime bill came back from ‘graveyard of bills’- Premier Fahie”

  • lol (21/01/2020, 15:44) Like (4) Dislike (29) Reply
    he trying hard to prevent the bloggers from attacking him in 2023
  • rattie (21/01/2020, 16:55) Like (19) Dislike (2) Reply
    The governor out of order he needs to be seen an not heard
  • (21/01/2020, 20:36) Like (7) Dislike (10) Reply
    He trying hard to get ahead and usurp the book that’s about to drop on them, but the “bitter truth” (title of book) must be told.

    Why not triple the penalties, this still will not detour us. What is good for one political party should be good for all political parties. Dirty politics will not be used for the benefit of one political party alone, then blocked once in power.

    Wait for it. The art of political war is to strike when least expected. When the book do drop, will be under
    • Reply (21/01/2020, 22:33) Like (4) Dislike (1) Reply
      Funny man has so much hate in his heart for this government but hate took you out of office and it will keep you out
  • Time Now (21/01/2020, 22:48) Like (11) Dislike (1) Reply
    When are we going to march on this governor?
    • @ time now (22/01/2020, 08:28) Like (5) Dislike (1) Reply
      My same question he does not support democratic tenants of small island black state!!
  • People (22/01/2020, 09:28) Like (23) Dislike (1) Reply
    V.I. people wake up. This Governor is not for us. He has his own plans and it is not in our benefit.
  • fact check (22/01/2020, 13:58) Like (5) Dislike (20) Reply
    I suggest people supporting this bill and throwing stones at the Governor familiarise themselves with the current coverage of the Brazilian government's charges against Glen Greenwald, trying to prosecute him and his media outlet under cyber-crime laws for exposing political corruption at the highest level.

    This bill is not about protecting innocent people from slander or defamation (you can have a separate law for that), nor about stopping the sharing of videos that have reached the public domain. The clear danger of this proposed law is the gagging of dissenters and challenge to free speech.


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