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The Computer Misuse Act
The Computer Misuse Act, Chapter 11:17 came into force on November 2, 2000. The aim of the act is to prohibit any unauthorised access, use, or interference with a computer.
The act defines several terms such as Computer; Computer Output; Computer Service; Damage; Data; Electronic, Acoustic, or Mechanical Device; Function; Intercept and Computer Programme. Unauthorised access is defined as access of any kind by a person to any programme or data held in a computer done without authority.
Programmes and data include those held in any attached removable storage device. Access to a programme or data includes access through the computer in question, through any other computer, or by other means inclusive of a printed form.
The act provides for several offences. It shall be an offence to:
• knowingly and without authority access (alter, erase, copy or use) a computer programme or data
• knowingly access (authorised or unauthorised) a computer with the intent to commit or aid in the commission of an offence
• directly or indirectly without authority modify a computer programme or data
• knowingly and without authority use or intercept a computer service
• knowingly and without authority obstruct the use of a computer, or obstruct the usefulness or effectiveness of a computer programme or data
• knowingly and without authority generally disclose a computer access code or password
• knowingly and without authority specifically disclose a computer access code or password for unlawful gain, purpose, or knowing it will likely cause unlawful damage
• knowingly and without authority receiving or giving access to a computer programme or data
• causing a computer to cease to function
The penalties for the above offences range from fines of between $15,000 and $35,000 and terms of imprisonment between two to five years for first offenders. Additionally, the act provides for enhanced punishment—conviction on indictment to a fine of $150,000 and to imprisonment for ten years—if some of the offences involve protected or secured computers.
The act shall have effect in relation to any person, whatever his nationality or citizenship, outside as well as within T&T. The act also provides for the jurisdiction of the court; provision for an order of payment of compensation (for persons suffering damages); and the power to investigate by the police, including the power for police officers to access computer programmes or data during an investigation.
Importantly, a limitation period is provided for the prosecution of offences under the act, so that any prosecution must be commenced within 12 months from the date of commission of the offence.
• This column is not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should consult a legal adviser.
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