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e-Justice Project

Media Statement By:
Tony Ryall
Minister of Justice

7 September, 1999

e-Justice Project:
Bill Brings Property Laws Into The Computer Age

"The Crimes Amendment Bill (No.6), introduced into Parliament today, will bring New Zealand's property laws into the computer age," says Justice Minister, Tony Ryall.

"This is one part of the Government's e-Justice project: making our laws technology neutral.

The Bill creates three new computer system offences: the dishonest use of a computer; attempting to dishonestly use a computer; and intentional or reckless serious damage to a computer.

The new offences will carry maximum penalties of up to 7 years imprisonment.

"A further offence of "hacking" or "cracking" into a computer system is also proposed. However, the definition of such an offence requires more consideration and is not expected to be ready for introduction until next year," said Mr Ryall.

"The Bill also addresses a number of other property crime issues which have become apparent through the widespread use of computers.

"In particular the Bill will redefine "property" to clearly include property you can't physically touch such as the balance of a bank account. It will also extend the definition of 'document' to include electronic documents held on computers. A recent court case raised questions about whether such documents legally "exist".

"The Bill does not include a legal definition of "computer", as there is considerable difference of opinion around the world as to whether such a definition is necessary or beneficial. With computers developing so quickly it may be that any definition we develop now would become outdated just as quickly.

"It is important that we try and make our laws technology neutral so that they can be applied equally to the technology of today as to technology yet to come.

"With computers now a part of our everyday lives we expect a great deal of interest from the public and business community in the proposed legislation," Mr Ryall concluded.

Other matters addressed by the Bill include: taking, obtaining or copying trade secrets; theft by a person in a special relationship; amendments to the offences of burglary, arson and intentional damage; blackmail; and, the addition of the element of recklessness to a number of offences where it currently does not apply, such as, obtaining by deception, false statement by a promoter, receiving, and money-laundering.

The Crimes Amendment Bill (No.6) will also contain new provisions regarding bribery of foreign officials. Once passed, it will allow New Zealand to ratify the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions, signed by New Zealand in December 1997.

ENDS

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