Justice minister eyes IT crime laws

Minister of Justice Tony Ryall is considering a draft report which looks at areas where the criminal law may be deficient relating to the use of computers. A spokesperson says the minister has briefed officials to consult with interested parties in the IT industry and legal fraternity. The detailed draft report covers a range of issues such as computer fraud and trespass.

Minister of Justice Tony Ryall is considering a draft report which looks at areas where the criminal law may be deficient relating to the use of computers.

Ryall’s press secretary, Tricia Clegg, says the minister has briefed officials to consult with interested parties in the information technology industry and legal fraternity. She says the report by the Ministry of Justice is comprehensive and covers a range of issues such as computer fraud and trespass, and also includes law commission recommendations on law reform necessary for electronic commerce.

The government’s current position in regard to computer related crime is that New Zealand does not need specific legislation. Following the example of the UK, New Zealand computer crime is dealt with under the Crimes Act.

This position has not yet been tested in the courts but a case currently before the police could challenge this. An Auckland company has laid a complaint with the police against a former employee alleging that the employee rendered the majority of the company’s computer files inaccessible. Computerworld understands that the police are still considering whether to authorise a prosecution because it’s not clear if the case would succeed under the current law.

The Minister of Justice cannot comment on the individual case but the government is taking action over these issues, says Clegg. She says the government’s stance that the current legislation is adequate to deal with computer related crime could change.

The report is welcomed by IT lawyer Craig Horrocks. “Other countries such as the US recognise that you can’t have uncertainty in prosecutions and have identified what the harm is. It’s no use running a few test cases,” he says.

“The same is true for e-commerce. All technology law issues are being treated as if the market can deal with whatever happens.”

In January the Internet Society of New Zealand suggested the government resurrect the “hacking” provisions of the 1988 Crimes Act Amendment Bill which provided for the criminal-isation of computer vandalism.

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