Cyber criminals will face up to 10 years in jail

Sentences of up to 10 years will be available to the courts to deal with new offences to protect state bodies and businesses from cyber criminals and hackers.

Legislation combating the area passed committee stage yesterday as part of an urgent drive across the European Union for strong laws and policing powers to deal with a surge in online attacks.

Minister of State at the Department of Justice, David Stanton, yesterday said there was a “clear need” for international co-operation and harmonised laws “to counter this threat”.

He was speaking at the Oireachtas justice committee during its examination of the Criminal Justice (Offences Relating to Information Systems) Bill 2016, which implements a 2013 EU directive.

Under the bill, it is an offence to intentionally access an information system without lawful authority, intentionally interfere with data or intercept the transmission of such data.

These offences are punishable by up to 12 months in prison and/or a fine on summary proceedings in the district court and by up to five years in prison and/or a fine on indictment before the circuit court.

An offence of intentionally interfering with an information system to as to hinder or disrupt its functioning attracts the same penalty in the district court and up to 10 years in the circuit court.

A fifth new offence makes it a crime to produce, sell or distribute a device, computer programme, password or code for any of the above offences.

The bill gives gardaí the power to seek a search warrant from the courts in related investigations.

“There is a clear need for international co-operation in the area of cybercrime and for the harmonisation of national laws to counter this threat,” Mr Stanton told the committee.

The committee also agreed to the Criminal Justice (Suspended Sentences of Imprisonment) Bill 2016.

It seeks to rectify a 2016 High Court ruling, which declared that laws regarding the activation of suspended sentences, involving a person found guilty of a further (triggering) offence, were unconstitutional.

Both bills now go to report and final stages.

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