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Commonwealth model law promises co-ordinated cybercrime response

22 April 2016

Cyber-criminals exploit the speed, convenience and anonymity of the internet to cause harm both at home and abroad. This makes it difficult for governments and law enforcement agencies to track, investigate and prosecute these crimes. 

Last week, a group of Commonwealth legal experts gathered to update the 2002 Commonwealth Computer and Computer Related Crimes Model Law, which helps countries to tackle this phenomenon.

Twenty-two Commonwealth member countries have used the model law as the basis of their national cybercrime laws (Source: Council of Europe). But rapid developments in technology necessitate updated legislation in this area.

The group of experts from Kenya, Sri Lanka, Canada, Jamaica, Nigeria, India, UK and Singapore, who gathered at the Commonwealth’s headquarters at Marlborough House, identified a number of revisions that need to be made to the model law, including in the area of international co-operation - an essential mechanism to tackle computer-related crimes that are by nature cross-border.

Maurice Bailey, Director of Legal Reform in Jamaica, one of the experts, said: “The Commonwealth model law was one of the main sets of guidance structures for Jamaican cybercrime legislation. It puts a practical spin on the principles of the Budapest Convention, the first international treaty seeking to address Internet and computer crime.”

He continued: “We’re working on some refinements to the model and one of the main areas of focus is international co-operation. Part of our connected world is dealing with issues of extraterritoriality. I am sure that these updated provisions will provide concrete guidance for countries in and outside the Commonwealth.”

The model law was first drafted after Commonwealth law ministers came together in 2000 and called for experts to look at the criminalisation and investigation of computer-related crime.

Katalaina Sapolu, Rule of Law Director at the Commonwealth Secretariat, said: “We have witnessed exponential growth in technology and the development of various software applications that have made the mode of offending in the cases of cybercrime difficult to detect.”

“Cybercrime requires expedited or real time cooperation for investigations and prosecutions to be successful,” she added.

In addition, the Commonwealth Secretariat is redeveloping the Commonwealth Network of Contact Persons - a network of criminal justice officials from each member country who can provide informal advice and information on making mutual assistance requests to their jurisdiction.