Cybercrime Convention will benefit Australia, says proponent

Countries that have complied with the Convention have considerably strengthened their cybercrime legislation.

Do you have tangible examples of people prosecuted as a result of it?

If a country ratifies the Convention it means that it has consistent cybercrime legislation in place. What we see in most of these countries is that the number of investigations and prosecutions increases considerably based on such legislation. What is sometimes lacking behind are actual court rulings. Therefore, the training of judges must be given priority in the near future.

A complete realisation of a common legal framework does not seem possible with the Convention. Is that a problem/weakness of it?

The reason behind turning the Convention from a primarily European into a global instrument is the need for a common, global legal framework. In addition to European countries, Canada, Japan and South Africa have signed it and the USA also ratified it in 2006. Costa Rica, Mexico and the Philippines have been invited to accede. What is equally, if not more important at this stage is that a vast number of countries in Africa, the Americas and Asia are now reforming their legislation. There is a global trend towards a common legal framework using the Convention as a reference.

The Convention has been described by the US Department of Justice as something which "removes or minimizes the many procedural and jurisdictional obstacles that can delay or endanger international investigations". Can you elaborate. What are some of the changes that have occurred since the member states signed the Convention? What would Australia need to do?

With regard to cybercrime investigations the main problems are their international nature and time. Electronic evidence is highly volatile and can disappear quickly. An investigator in one country therefore needs to have the possibility to ask an investigator in another country to request a service provider to preserve specific data. This should then give the necessary time to initiate the formal procedures for mutual legal assistance. This is one of the possibilities that the Convention foresees. The Convention also formalises the creation of 24/7 points of contact who facilitate immediate action in urgent cases.

Another issue is the already mentioned harmonization or compatibility of legislation: what is a crime in one country must also be a crime in another country, otherwise international cooperation is very difficult.

Australia would need to see whether its legislation is already meeting the requirements of the Convention, in terms of substantive and procedural law. If so, it can be invited to accede to the Convention. If not, legislative amendments would need to be implemented first.

When the US ratified the treaty the EFF called it The World's Worst Internet Laws. Was this a valid comment/concern?

An international treaty is always a compromise and can never be perfect. However, the Convention on Cybercrime has clearly proven its value. The fact that seven years after its opening for signature it still covers most of what is needed against cybercrime - in spite of all the technological changes since and the evolving nature of cybercrime - shows that it is a high quality treaty.

Some aspects of the comment that you refer to are simply not correct. A country can require dual criminality when dealing with a request for assistance from abroad. The comment does not provide any alternative, other than the impossible idea of securing a society against cybercrime in isolation without cooperating with the rest of the world.

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