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The Misuse of Telephones and Telegrams: Why State is over-reaching by prosecuting Facebook post

“The provision [used to prosecute Rayad Mohammed] was enacted in 1951. Yes, 1951. It was enacted to deal with the “misuse of telephone facilities and false telegrams. The legislature at the time sought to capture offensive messages that may have been transmitted by landlines and telegrams.

“It is a stretch, a painful one at that, to suggest that online activities are caught by this section—even if those activities are facilitated through one’s mobile phone.”

The following Letter to the Editor regarding the criminal prosecution of Rayad Mohammed for a grossly offensive Facebook post aimed at the family of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley was submitted by barrister and senior lecturer Dr Emir Crowne BA, LLB, LLM, LLM, PhD, LEC:

Photo: Rayad Mohammed has been prosecuted for an offensive Facebook post aimed at the family of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.

Rayad Mohammed, the author of a morally condemnable Facebook post, was recently charged under section 106 of the Summary Offences Act.  That section states that:

“Any person who—

(a) sends any message by telephone which is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene, or menacing character; or

(b) sends any message by telephone, or any telegram, which he knows to be false, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to any other person; or

(c) persistently makes telephone calls without reasonable cause and for any such purpose as mentioned above, is liable on summary conviction to a fine of two hundred dollars or to imprisonment for one month.”

The provision was enacted in 1951. Yes, 1951. It was enacted to deal with the “misuse of telephone facilities and false telegrams.” The legislature at the time sought to capture offensive messages that may have been transmitted by landlines and telegrams.

It is a stretch, a painful one at that, to suggest that online activities are caught by this section—even if those activities are facilitated through one’s mobile phone.

Photo: Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams.
(Copyright Trinidad Guardian)

To be successfully prosecuted under the Criminal Law, there must be a statutory wrong. In the absence of clear statutory language, there can be no criminal wrongdoing. Unlike other areas of law (like Torts), there are no ‘judge made’ crimes.

To borrow the words of the House of Lords in R v. Gold and Schifreen, [1988] 2 WLR 984 (a case concerning alleged computer hacking): it is a “Procrustean attempt to force the facts of the present case into the language of an Act not designed to fit them”.

Indeed, if so-called cybercrimes were caught under this section—and others—there would be no reason for specific cybercrime legislation in the first place. We could simply rely on extremely dated laws and their whopping TT$200 fines.

To be clear, the language used in the Facebook status (which I shall not repeat), was disgusting. There is no denying that. But as the US Supreme Court recently remarked in Matal v. Tam, 582 U. S. ____ (2017) (a case concerning offensive trademarks):

“The Government has an interest in preventing speech expressing ideas that offend. And, as we [the Supreme Court] have explained, that idea strikes at the heart of the First Amendment. Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express ‘the thought that we hate’.” (citing United States v. Schwimmer, 279 U. S. 644, 655 (1929)

Photo: A judge calls for order.

It was a clear message from the US Supreme Court that free speech protects unpopular speech with as much force and vigour as it does popular/mainstream speech.

Again, to be clear, I thoroughly disagree with the content of Mr Mohammed’s Facebook status: but he committed no crime. The State had no business detaining him, or charging him, as there was no specific criminal law breached in this instance.

Until specific, and constitutionally-sound, laws are enacted to deal with so-called cybercrimes of this nature, Mr Mohammed is simply a target of the State’s excessive reach.

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331 comments

  1. The state could never win this case based on what he is charged for,hope he sues the state after he succeed

  2. He should sue them for bias ..and so many pnm people talking shit about kamla and Hindu people and there’s nothing happening ..

  3. It looks like making a suggestion is now a treat!!Conveniently.. !! Now let’s focus on the real issue people the victims who was grossly murdered and not forgetting raped … how come nobody saying ranting and raving about justice!!!
    Or is it alyuh get amnesia on how all this started!!!

  4. After 3 nights of being held,the best the ttps can come up with is an act from 1951,what utter rubbish.IF IT WAS ANYONE OTHER THAN ROWLEY,DO YOU THINK THE GUY WOULD HAVE BEEN CHARGED with this so called act…..

  5. Can anyone cursing in public be persecuted by the law. If so, many r doing it publicly on social media. Please if its d law, GO AFTER THEM 2.

  6. I can’t send pics on this site or I would of shown some threats

  7. Long before “This Boy” was the Mirror, the Punch,the Bomb and many more obscenities. I don’t condone this boy’s utterances, plain vulgar speech but he learned from the examples before him, as, the above. He’s very young and definitely observed growing up that,ITS OK TO BE VULGAR AND OBSCENE on Carnival days on the streets of TT. Children live by the examples we set for them as Adults. Some may be fortunate to have PARENTS that correct this in their homes.
    Carnival ,ole mas characters and some calypsos / Soca lyrics have that same influence on young minds.
    You tube is flooded with obscenities, the best know destroying the minds of young people is a young woman called Kia and Daryl Dookoo. WHY IS THAT ALLOWS. RAW SEWERAGE, referring to themselves as party Supporters. Oh my God, Rachel , Lord have Mercy!!!!!! People on this thread investigate those persons who are allowed to CUSS freely for years . investigate THIS NOW

  8. hes so gonna sue the PNM government for hundreds of thousand of dollars when he wins, for character defamation etc etc,

  9. This is a serious matter. Face the law. Wheather its 1951 whatever. They not going in no other country and do that. Why do it in trinidad and tobago. The ppl who condone this act are condoning criminality.. If this security system treats this as a trivial matter it will become a trend. Face the court.

  10. Politically motivated you say. So he aint do nothing wrong? eh?.all yuh good yes

  11. I’m gonna add my 2c here, and I’m not sure if anyone here has made this point already, but for the record…

    While we debate what law was or was not violated, l believe the action taken against this young man was politically motivated and executed by police upon instruction to make this young man an example of what not to do on social media. I personally don’t think they (politicians + police) care about whether he actually broke a law or not. We know it’s fuzzy since we actually having a debate on it, and that is what lawyers are trained to do.

    Creating a controversy which keeps the conversation going (unfortunately) has had a bad effect on this man’s life also – I also don’t think they care about that. Amongst other things, this was a political PR tactic executed with the help of the police.

    • you believe? based on what evidence?

      So you also believe that the woman held in Sangre GRande for beating the toddler is also politically motivated? If not, why not?

      Do you also think that the SOE in 2011 was politically motivated and carried out by the army AND police? IF so, why? If not, why?

    • Well, you’re absolutely right, because if someone had any evidence, we wouldn’t be having this discussion would we? This is all speculation. Call it a gut feeling if you want. Do you have any evidence regarding the operational effectiveness of the principle of the separation of powers here?

    • The evidence is that the DPP…a demonstrably independent office from the Executive, instructed the TTPS…who is not at times demonstrably independent…in the action.

      If the detention was political, I would have expected the DPP to instruct no laying of charges.

    • Kwesi Prescod According to the separation of powers principle, the legislative branch is also “demonstrably independent” of the executive branch. Why one and not the other? How it’s supposed to be is not how it is. And as someone stated in this or another post related to this matter, convenience drives comprehension and opinion in the Trinidadian mindset on any given topic.

    • nope…its theoretically independent, but as MP’s are ministers, it is NOT demonstrably so,.

      The key here is the action of independent offices. These offices are professional and should not be swayed by convenience. I say that the DPP is demonstrably independent because the office holder has operated in a fashion that has both the PP and PNM vex…so he walking to the beat of a different drum.

    • Kwesi Prescod Lol ok, I concede to that. I still feel like there is political motivation, and please note that it doesn’t mean I have a side. It was just my personal observation.

    • That’s cool. I still feel the Commissioner of Police is compromised. But feelings on such things don’t mean squat, do they?

    • I have seen a lot of hate and things bordering on death threats against the opposition. Why has the independent DPP and police not acting?

  12. And if you went out without a hijab in Afghanistan, you might be raped or assaulted.
    Good thing we are not in Afghanistan or china.
    (Good lord… please know that wasn’t a wish or threat!)

  13. So many lawyers giving their opinions,if he made that comment in China he and the rest of the family will be publicly shot.

  14. I agree with you Dr Crowne.

    • Saw this.
      Also seems more like a wish than a threat to me.

    • Yeah but it’s similar to our case in the intent. Like saying “so and so should get hit by a car”. Is very different from saying “I going to knock down so and so!”.

    • So apparently if I say someone should hack Hilary Clinton’s email, it should be considered a threat.

    • Vernal I think you’re going overboard with this Devil’s Advocate thing. Inciting criminal mischief is not the same as inciting bodily harm.

    • Lol. Vernal Only if Hilary have a daughter name “email”. Then for sure hacking would get them in trouble?

    • I have a serious question … Do we live in Canada? The point is no laws were broken in T&T by this young man. Do we agree with what he said? No. So stop using other countries laws as justification for the government abusing its power and over stepping it bounds. This is a very slippery slope we are on.

    • Ok Adriel. First of all posting an article that references a similar situation is not in any way an endorsement or justification for the guy’s arrest. And secondly I’m not sure you can use the guy’s arrest as “government abusing it’s power” as it’s the police who arrested him not the government.

    • Adriel Section 106 of the Telephone Offences Act. Familiarize yourself with it.

    • Yes, you all need to actually familiarize yourselves with the “Telephone offences act”. If you look up the definition of telephones and telegraphs you will understand the difference between computers and these devices. There is a reason why Faris came out accusing this man of breaking laws in the cyber crime bill which is not law yet. There is also a reason why this young man admission of wrong doing turned into a plea of not guilty once a lawyer was involved.

    • Thanks for informing me that the police is not a public institution and operates without government involvement.

    • I have no idea what you’re talking about with your last comment, and clearly you do not either.

      And of course he would plead not guilty, that’s defense lawyering 101… taught the class myself. But let’s pretend you actually have a clue what you’re talking about, emphasis on “pretend,” you might actually consider that he posted the comment from his mobile phone. Or are you trying to make the case that a mobile phone is not a “telephone” under the Act? I would hope not.

    • Telephone definition : a system for transmitting voices over a distance using wire or radio, by converting acoustic vibrations to electrical signals.

    • I’m really not about to waste any more time arguing with you. Consider that some of us might actually be drawing on real world experiences when we comment, and not just degrees from Google U.

    • you claim to not waste time then type the same comment twice?

    • You clearly have other issues beyond the obvious logical deficiencies.

    • Ahh here comes the character assassination … when you fail at trying to make a logical point people always resort to character assassination.

    • I know nothing of your “character” so I can’t comment on that. Just the logically deficient positions you’ve taken up in this thread.

    • ” I’m really not about to waste any more time arguing with you”. Quoted from Nigel S. Scott but continues to respond …

    • Responding is not the same as “arguing,” but you’re right, this is clearly getting counterproductive.

    • Exactly when someone believes a handheld computer device is a telephone, then goes on to speculate that the said person posted from a mobile device without evidence to back this up. Its time to throw in the proverbial towel.

    • Nigel S. Scott “Consider that some of us might actually be drawing on real world experiences when we comment, and not just degrees from Google U.” From about that point you actually did get snarky… You didn’t violate group rules by it. But it doesn’t really help the exchange of ideas much eh…

    • Lasana Liburd “snarky”? You serious? That’s a stated fact. Some people run to google to copy and paste and to get definitions of things with which they’re unfamiliar, and some actually know from experience what they’re talking about. I’ve been on the receiving end of worse “Smart and quote from you in the past which you yourself have admitted, but I’ve never seen any comments about violation of group rules.

    • The group rules ask people not to insult other posters. I said you didn’t do so but the spirit of that is to try not to be offputting essentially. You don’t know what Ariel’s schooling might be and didn’t ask. So it was dismissive.
      There are many people with masters who also use Google. All I’m saying is to consider what your response might do to the exchange of ideas. That’s all

    • I posted the definition of the word “telephone” to help with the understanding of the terminology were are dealing with. Instead of continuing the discussion you start attacking the posting of fact. Which shows the direction you wish to take this conversation. Your posts border on cyber bulling and only forces people to become defensive and distract away from any intelligent conversation to be had. You then justify this behavior by pointing fingers back at the people who pick you on on this behavior. How does this help?

    • Google U actually helps when researching the law, rather than purchasing the Laws of Trinidad and Tobago.

  15. Let the man stand the consequences for his predetermined actions. Check his record on fb. And then what Ms Rowley have to do with his stupid and ignorant thinkinh. Clearly he is a malicious person .

  16. Hope lessons are learnt by all……

  17. Didn’t Fitzgerald Hinds (2016) say, ” I said to my colleagues, as a younger parliamentarian then, I said the UNC is badly wounded. We need to finish them out. Kill them dead. I want you to understand that on November 28, you have the opportunity to drive a PNM balisier deep into the hearts of the wicked UNC vampires. Take a stake with a balisier on top and drive it deep within their heart and finish them off once and for all.”

    http://www.trinidadexpress.com/20161117/news/omg-ebc-unc-candidates-listed-as-pnmites

    Was that threatening or inciting? Was he charged?

  18. I totally condemn the words used by Mr. Mohommed, but were those words used as intent or as a result of poor literary skills? Had he said “should somebody…” rather than “somebody should…” would that have made a difference?

    Based on this article and the law, it seems that the prosecution will have to prove that he used his phone to access his FB account rather than a computer or Tablet.

    Secondly, they will have to prove that he directed those comments specifically toward Dr. Keith Rowley and his family rather than a ‘Rowley’ in general. Mr. Mohommed was not specific as to which Rowley he was speaking of.

    Didn’t Colm Imbert delete a post allegedly made by him and said that his account was hacked?

    What if Mr. Mohommed says that his account was hacked?
    Or what if he said that his phone was cloned? Which happens more often than people think.

    Who specifically was he inciting to commit a crime against ‘Rowley’s’ family, was it to the world? Without specificity, the prosecution will have an uphill battle. How are they going to prove intent to commit a crime vs sarcasm?

  19. Wow, you Trinis have no idea how dangerous this is. This is an assault on freedom of sspeech. You alling for his arrest cannot seem to distinguish from a very stupid post from an actually call for violence.

    Go ahead, tyranny can come creeping slowly over many years and one day you may find yourselves being told what you can say or go to jail. Then it will be too late.

    Btw, free speech is not just for popular speech but for unpopular, insulting speech.

    It’s kinda sad that you all don’t have a 1st amendment (us Constitution) and you don’t know what freedom truly is.

    -i disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it- Voltaire.

  20. Well..should we not indict Shamfa? if evah there was abuse of a telephone that was it.

  21. I am no legal mind but I want to throw this into the mix, after his post went public the amount of mother this and mother that he responded with, it was sickening and after it created a storm, he apologized and took down his page, to my mind all that should form evidence against him

  22. With all due respect to the good Dr. Crowne this is a letter which doesn’t really make a strong legal basis against the application of the law to this situation. The law in this case states:

    “106. Any person who—
    (a) sends any message by telephone which is grossly
    offensive or of an indecent, obscene, or menacing
    character… is liable on summary conviction to a fine of two hundred dollars
    or to imprisonment for one month.”

    Not really sure what the issue… if the communication was posted to Facebook via his cellphone (as opposed to his computer or tablet), then the application of the law is proper. Now if Dr. Crowne had discussed the issue of how the message was posted (specifically whether it was posted by some means other than through the use of his phone, then he would have made a much more persuasive, and legally sound argument.

  23. Did he access internet in his cellphone Lasana Liburd?

  24. So because we have new ways of using telephone lines and facilities means that the old prohibitions against using them in the manner he used them no longer apply?
    Did any part of his posting utilize telephone or telephone facilities? Then why is it a stretch? Do we need to update libel and slander laws too because it is easier to publish defamatory statements?

    • It does NOT have ANY similarity to the law on telephones and telegrams; THAT should be your very FIRST action; reading the law and drawing the parallels
      The next part of the law requires “a course of action” specifying a minimum of two occasions for this to constitute “harassment” which is what the law falls under
      lastly, if you are also implying that this was a threat then I would kindly suggest that you check with a dictionary
      Btw, should I have used “should” instead of “would” then it also changes the meaning of this entire comment
      That one is Grammar 101
      You “should” also look into that
      🙂

    • Eron you are making a valid point. Why is the learned lecturer employing a narrow interpretation of what a telephone is? Granted the legislature ought to have kept pace with modern times and passed legislation to cover these situations. Just because a law is old doesn’t mean it is always irrelevant.

    • Misty Autumn Dey I must apologize to you. I am a little confused by your post. Maybe you intended to say this in response to some other Facebook post not my own. I was talking about the professors post. Since I don’t know you or recognize any of the pictures on your profile thanks for your efforts to educate me? I see your attempt to imply that I am stupid, your suggestion that I should look into grammar 101 or should check a dictionary for the definition of a “threat” although I never said a threat was made

    • Misty Autumn Dey I must apologize to you. I am a little confused by your post. Maybe you intended to say this in response to some other Facebook post not my own. I was talking about the professor’s post

    • Rohan San wait me? If so please elaborate. If you care to that is.

    • That law was a really far reach. .. when that law was written, it could not include what we know as text messages since that was not invented until many years later…

    • Rohan San so if you kill someone using a laser beam you can’t prosecute because laser beams weren’t invented when the law was written? Replace laser beam with assault rifle or any new innovation in weapons technology…invented after a particular murder or assault statute.

    • If the law says projectile weapon, then no you can’t use “THAT LAW” … you would need another law …

  25. We have telegram here?
    What is it?

  26. He lost his job thats good enough for me

  27. That’s why the TTPS and office of DPP took so 4 days to charge him. Lol.

  28. Should learn to think before you write and have some respect.

  29. The fines should be twenty thou and 18 months.

  30. I wonder to what extent the case of Johnson vs Texas is relevant. Seems to me that Rayad Mohammed’s post would fall within “symbolic speech”. Emir Crowne as a legal mind, I would appreciate your thoughts and to this end I include the case summary.

    Facts and Case Summary – Texas v. Johnson

    Facts and case summary for Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989). Flag burning constitutes symbolic speech that is protected by the First Amendment.
    Facts

    Gregory Lee Johnson burned an American flag outside of the convention center where the 1984 Republican National Convention was being held in Dallas, Texas. Johnson burned the flag to protest the policies of President Ronald Reagan. He was arrested and charged with violating a Texas statute that prevented the desecration of a venerated object, including the American flag, if such action were likely to incite anger in others. A Texas court tried and convicted Johnson. He appealed, arguing that his actions were “symbolic speech” protected by the First Amendment. The Supreme Court agreed to hear his case.

    Issue

    Whether flag burning constitutes “symbolic speech” protected by the First Amendment.

    Ruling

    Yes.

    Reasoning
    (5-4)

    The majority of the Court, according to Justice William Brennan, agreed with Johnson and held that flag burning constitutes a form of “symbolic speech” that is protected by the First Amendment. The majority noted that freedom of speech protects actions that society may find very offensive, but society’s outrage alone is not justification for suppressing free speech.

    In particular, the majority noted that the Texas law discriminated upon viewpoint, i.e., although the law punished actions, such as flag burning, that might arouse anger in others, it specifically exempted from prosecution actions that were respectful of venerated objects, e.g., burning and burying a worn-out flag. The majority said that the government could not discriminate in this manner based solely upon viewpoint.

    Dissent

    Justice Stevens
    Writing for the dissent, Justice Stevens argued that the flag’s unique status as a symbol of national unity outweighed “symbolic speech” concerns, and thus, the government could lawfully prohibit flag burning.

    Facts and Case Summary – Texas v. Johnson Facts and case summary for Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989). Flag burning constitutes symbolic speech that is protected by the First Amendment. Facts Gregory Lee Johnson burned an American flag outside of the convention center where the 1984 Republican National Convention was being held in Dallas, Texas. Johnson burned the flag to protest the policies of President Ronald Reagan. He was arrested and charged with violating a Texas statute that prevented the desecration of a venerated object, including the American flag, if such action were likely to incite anger in others. A Texas court tried and convicted Johnson. He appealed, arguing that his actions were “symbolic speech” protected by the First Amendment. The Supreme Court agreed to hear his case. Issue Whether flag burning constitutes “symbolic speech” protected by the First Amendment. Ruling Yes. Reasoning (5-4) The majority of the Court, according to Justice William Brennan, agreed with Johnson and held that flag burning constitutes a form of “symbolic speech” that is protected by the First Amendment. The majority noted that freedom of speech protects actions that society may find very offensive, but society’s outrage alone is not justification for suppressing free speech. In particular, the majority noted that the Texas law discriminated upon viewpoint, i.e., although the law punished actions, such as flag burning, that might arouse anger in others, it specifically exempted from prosecution actions that were respectful of venerated objects, e.g., burning and burying a worn-out flag. The majority said that the government could not discriminate in this manner based solely upon viewpoint. Dissent Justice Stevens Writing for the dissent, Justice Stevens argued that the flag’s unique status as a symbol of national unity outweighed “symbolic speech” concerns, and thus, the government could lawfully prohibit flag burning.

    • In my view, the decision shows the breadth that free ‘speech’ is given in the US. The Facebook post in question is undoubtedly ‘speech’, whereas one could question whether flag burning was, in fact, speech at all.

    • Emir Crowne I guess it depends on the definition of “speech”. Is speech expression it is it strictly verbiage? It would be great to hear a debate between some legal & constitutional minds like yourself on this issue. That’s my disappointment with these issues in TT. We seem to have lost the desire or interest in debating issues. This is an issue with great potential fir shaping our nation

    • I have not come across any WI jurisprudence which articulates a similar breath of coverage relating to the right to free speech in Caribbean constitutions. To draw a parallel, in Piper v Galloway it was held that being arrested for beating a drum on a street corner did not constitute an infringement of the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed in the Dominican constitution. By parity of reasoning, there is little to suggest that free speech in a Caribbean context would be as broadly defined as obtains in the US. Perhaps the part of the problem is that we do not have enough cases testing these points to determine the ambit of constitutional rights

    • Has no bearing. Johnson vs. Texas is a US Supreme Court decision, which might (and I emphasize *might*) serve as persuasive authority, but it certainly does not serve as mandatory authority on local courts.

    • Nigel S. Scott I disagree. It’s about the definition and broader ambit of what constitutes free speech!!!!

    • Disagreement is your right… but the fact remains that this is an American definition of what constitutes free speech, local Trini courts are not obligated to follow in kind.

    • To elaborate, TnT follows UK/Commonwealth law… not US jurisprudence.

    • Nigel S. Scott Oh God we know that!!! But we are yet developing. As my full text said this is an issue of national development. One day soon we will have to further elaborate and advance our constitutional and legal standing in these issues. At that point, I’m sure that the architects of that new domain won’t rely on the narrow experiences os just the commonwealth! I am confident that those men and women will be wiser and smarter than that

    • Your comment presupposes that free speech laws in TnT are not as developed as First Amendment jurisprudence in the US. A proper understanding of the “UK/Commonwealth law” reference would first take into consideration the state of Commonwealth free speech jurisprudence before dismissively dealing with question of “constitutional and legal standing.”

  31. I wonder if it was lil ghetto runt who made that statememt if people would be that concerned?

  32. There is a difference between making threats and wishing harm.

    “You should get pushed off a cliff”

    Is not a threat

    “I am going to push you off a cliff”

    Is a threat

  33. Why are we making this idiot famous.?

  34. … more applicable legal basis? Just asking…see:-

    Cybercrime Law 2017

    4. In this Act—
    “computer data” means any representation of—
    (a) facts;
    (b) concepts;
    (c) machine-readable code or instructions; or
    (d) information, including text, sound, image or video, that is in a form suitable for processing in a computer system and is capable of being sent, received or stored, and includes a program that can cause a computer system
    to perform a function;

    “data message” has the meaning assigned to it in the Electronic Transactions Act; “device” means any electronic programmable device used, whether by itself or as part of a computer network, an electronic communications network or any other device or equipment, or any part thereof, to perform pre-determined arithmetic, logical, routing or storage operations and
    includes—
    (a) an input device;
    (b) an output device;
    (c) a processing device;
    (d) a computer data storage medium;
    (e) a program; or
    (f) equipment,
    that is related to, connected with or used with such a device or any part thereof;
    Act No. 6 of 2011
    “electronic mail message” means an unsolicited data message, including electronic mail and an instant message;

    18. (1) A person who uses a computer system to communicate with the intention to cause harm to another person commits an offence.
    (2) In determining whether an offence is committed under this section, the Court may take into account any factor which it considers relevant,
    including—
    (a) the extremity of the language used in the communication;
    (b) the age and characteristics of the person involved;
    (c) whether the communication was anonymous;
    (d) whether the communication was repeated;
    (e) the extent of circulation of the communication;
    (f) whether the communication is true or false;
    and
    (g) the context in which the communication appeared.
    (3) A person who commits an offence under this section is liable—
    (a) on summary conviction to a fine of
    one hundred thousand dollars and to imprisonment for three years; or
    (b) on conviction on indictment to a fine of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars and imprisonment for five years.
    (4) For the purposes of this section, “harm” means serious emotional distress.

  35. In criminology there is something called “general deterrence” and “specific deterrence.” The specific would be aimed at the individual, in this case Rayad. The general is aimed at the larger audience, the society, sending a message that such comments will not be tolerated. The IRS, MI5 and other organizations hunt down people at all expenses to drive home the second point.

    • That’s what Trinidadians are not getting.

    • We are not very good at being analytical; we operate largely on the emotional and it’s difficult to get ppl to see beyond that. We “feel” a lot and “think” very little. Not really our fault, though.

    • Well put Rudy! The only difference I see with T&T as oppose to other countries where general and specific deterrence actually works is that in those countries no one is above the law. I’m no expert in criminology, however, intuitively I don’t think specific and general deterrence works in a lawless society where a President can knowingly and fraudulently receive over $600K in housing allowance and not be touched. The problem starts at the top.

    • By the way, the infantile and disrespectful behavior of politicians in parliament which is transmitted on television contributes to the lawlessness.

    • Sorry to stray from the point, but I think yuh catch mih drift.

    • Therein lies our challenges: our examples, role models etc. When they violate laws with impunity, what do they expect the “lesser mortals” to do? The entire legal system is dysfunctional, as is the health care as is education et al. When nurses see doctors taking state medication to use in their private practice, what do we expect them to do? No examples, the blind leading the blind…

    • Excellent point Rudy, something which I alluded to in response to Malcolm’s comment above. This is more about general deterrence than any desire to prosecute or penalize this particular individual, as it should be… our focus should always be on the bigger picture.

  36. It’s easier to persecute this guy than to tackle really serious issues, makes for great drama and hysteria….

  37. In my opinion, the state does not expect to win this matter. The purpose of laying the charge is to teach this kid a lesson as well as to send a message to society. The backlash is that a lot of time would be expended by the state in a matter that carries a minuscule fine; where there is a high likelihood of acquittal. Therefore the question is, does the hourly rate multiplied by the time spent by the prosecution lawyers really worth getting a conviction in a matter that carries a $200 fine?

  38. Lasana remember Sasha Mohammed and the ‘Janice Thomas’ affair?

  39. put it bluntly this learned gentlemen must understand the law is the law,the summary offences chapter 11/02 might be a relic of the colonial past,you could have threatened the any leader in the developed world family,the place would have been crawling with secret service agents,abuse must not be tolerated,the law is no respector of persons

  40. Rayad Mohammed’s post was overly emotional, disgusting, nasty and offwnzi. I have struggled to understand what law he breached. Thanks to Emir for clarifying.

  41. I don’t think the state is over reacting. If he made a callous post making threats against the Prime Minister’s family then yes he deserved to be punished. I’m all for freedom of speech but also there are consequences and sadly he paid the price for being a keyboard warrior. Maybe the rest of the population will think twice about posting these kinds of posts on Facebook.

  42. A cellphone is as much a telephone as a seahorse is a horse.

  43. I think this boy should rightfully be punished there are too many people in society nowadays issuing threatening statements on social media etc and getting away with it just to make themselves look the big man. This kind of nonsense is taken very serious in the UK no one in this world can be trusted these days too many people linked to terroism you can never be too careful. Let this immature little boys stupidness be a lesson to all the youths to stop trying to act the big man and smart ass on social media coz it will only cost you some sort of punishment