HOW TO READ THE NEWS - SAMPLE ANSWERS: Smartphone ruling causes confusion [August 15, 2018]

HOW TO READ THE NEWS - SAMPLE ANSWERS: Smartphone ruling causes confusion [August 15, 2018]

The High Court has rejected the use of the most common charge against crimes involving the handheld devices

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Pending cases against smartphone-related crimes would have to be “withheld” until further legal opinion.
Photo: K. Y. Cheng/SCMP

Q: What was the effect of the High Court not convicting the four primary schoolteachers?

A: The Department of Justice has been forced to stop the prosecution of smartphone-related crimes.

Q: How did the justice department describe the High Court’s decision?

A: “Rather catastrophic.”

Q: Why does the justice department view the ruling as negative?

A: They have lost a “one size fits all” charge to prosecute smartphone and computer-related crimes.

Q: What will happen to the cases that were pending?

A: They will have to be “withheld” until further legal opinion.

Q: What argument does lawyer Eric Cheung Tat-ming use to justify the court’s decision?

A: Cheung says that the law has become too broad, and is “open to abuse”. A legal decision that narrows the scope of the law is good to clarify the law in question.

Q: In his quote, what does Cheung say was the original purpose of the law in question?

A: To “curb illegal hacking”.

Q: Why do you think the justice department had such a high conviction rate between the years of 2008 and 2017?

A: Because the section of the law in question, Section 161, was treated as a “one size fits all” charge that was broad in scope, prosecutors could take advantage of the vagueness to interpret what it means to commit a computer crime for various cases.

Q: Why was the computer crimes ordinance originally written into law? Do you think it still serves the same purpose?

A: It was written into the law in the 1990s, so the original intent was to keep the law up to date and protect people from computer crimes. However, the world has moved on quite a lot technologically, and the only step forward the law has taken is to include smartphones into the definition of “computer”. It no longer is relevant, nor does it criminalise the most salient computer crimes today.

Q: Do you agree with the human rights group who say that the ordinance has been used too flexibly? Why or why not?

A: Yes; the conviction numbers speak for themselves. Because the courts have been slow (until now) to define the scope of Section 161, prosecutors have used the charge broadly against a variety of crimes.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Smartphone ruling causes confusion

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