Cy­ber-defama­tion should be a crim­i­nal of­fence – se­nior cop

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Livern Bar­rett Se­nior Gleaner Writer­rett@glean­

WITH MORE Ja­maicans own­ing smart­phones and other dig­i­tal de­vices, one high-rank­ing po­lice of­fi­cer wants leg­is­la­tors to make cy­ber-defama­tion a crim­i­nal of­fence.

Cy­ber-defama­tion is de­fined by law-en­force­ment per­son­nel as the post­ing of deroga­tory or de­mean­ing texts or im­ages of in­di­vid­u­als on the In­ter­net.

In­spec­tor War­ren Williams, head of the Ja­maica Con­stab­u­lary Force’s Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Foren­sic and Cy­ber­crime Unit, re­vealed yes­ter­day that there has been “a rapid in­crease” in cy­ber-defama­tion lo­cally.

“It is way up. It’s not a crim­i­nal of­fence – it’s still civil – but we are im­plor­ing pros­e­cu­tors and the Ministry of Jus­tice to look at this,” Williams said, with Jus­tice Min­is­ter Del­roy Chuck lis­ten­ing.

“Be­cause here it is that peo­ple can ac­cess any­thing you post on so­cial me­dia, and, of course, they put you up on some site some­where in cy­berspace and say some­thing deroga­tory or that’s not nice about you and de­fame your char­ac­ter,” added Williams, who was ad­dress­ing the Fourth North Amer­i­can and Re­gional Con­fer­ence of the In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Pros­e­cu­tors, be­ing held in Mon­tego Bay, St James.


Chuck later told The Gleaner that he asked the po­lice and the Of­fice of the Direc­tor of Public Pros­e­cu­tions for more de­tails on the pro­posal to amend the Cy­ber­crimes Act and promised to dis­cuss it with Cabi­net.

“I have asked for the in­for­ma­tion to be pre­sented so that we can ex­am­ine it and see how we can move for­ward,” Chuck said.

“Even if I make a rec­om­men­da­tion to crim­i­nalise it, ob­vi­ously, Par­lia­ment will have to make the fi­nal de­ci­sion,” the jus­tice min­is­ter in­sisted.

But al­ready, at least one prom­i­nent at­tor­ney has reser­va­tions about mak­ing cy­ber-defama­tion a crim­i­nal of­fence.


Queen’s Coun­sel Ge­or­gia Gibson-Hen­lin ac­knowl­edged that defama­tion is tak­ing place on so­cial me­dia but ar­gued that mak­ing it a crim­i­nal of­fence was not the cor­rect ap­proach to take.

“... be­cause there is al­ready a ro­bust frame­work for deal­ing with defama­tion un­der the new Defama­tion Act of 2013. So you would deal with it as a civil mat­ter in the same way that we now deal with defama­tion cases,” Gibson-Hen­lin told The Gleaner yes­ter­day.

She noted also that leg­is­la­tors re­cently amended the laws to re­move crim­i­nal li­bel and sug­gested that crim­i­nal­is­ing cy­ber-defama­tion could be seen as “go­ing a step back­ward”.

“If we have re­moved crim­i­nal li­bel, then why are we go­ing to crim­i­nalise defama­tion?” the at­tor­ney ques­tioned.

“Some­times when I hear ideas about plac­ing all of these things in the Cy­ber­crimes Act I think we are some­what pan­ick­ing be­cause there is al­ready leg­is­la­tion,” she in­sisted.

How­ever, for Chuck, it is not as straight­for­ward as some persons view it.

“There are pros and cons as to how it should be dealt with,” he rea­soned.


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