Sherod Duncan gets $200K bail on cybercrime charge

Sherod Duncan at the Diamond/Grove Magistrates' Court

Opposition Member of Parliament Sherod Duncan has been released on $200,000 bail after he was charged with a cybercrime offence under the Cybercrime Act which was passed by APNU/AFC in 2018.

Duncan, a 42-year-old father of three, appeared before Magistrate Judy Latchman at the Grove/Diamond Magistrates’ Court and denied that on January 11,2022, without legal or lawful justification or excuse, he used a computer system to publish electronic data with the intent to humiliate and embarrass and to cause emotional distress to 36-year-old Aneal Giddings, an Information Technology Manager at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).

It is alleged that Duncan referred to the IT Manager as a “jagabat” and “trench crappo” among other disrespectful names, which caused him significant emotional stress and humiliation. (The term jagabat has several meanings in the Caribbean: in Trinidad, it means a promiscuous woman and in Guyana, it means a despicable or contemptible person while crappo is the local spelling for the French “crapaud” meaning toad; trench crappos are particularly large and unsightly).

Duncan is expected to return to court again on February 10, 2022. He was represented by Attorneys Khemraj Ramjattan, Nigel Hughes, Narisa Leander, and Amanza Walton-Desir.

Last year, the Director of Public Prosecutions advised the Guyana Police Force to charge former Minister and current Opposition Member of Parliament Annette Ferguson for cyberbullying a senior member of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF). She was charged under section 195(5)(a) of the Cybercrime Act, No. 16 of 2018, which deals with using a computer system to humiliate a person.

Ferguson was arrested last June by ranks of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Headquarters at Eve Leary after a report in relation to a cybercrime allegation was filed against her. The matter was in relation to a Facebook social media post which falsely alleged that the said senior GDF rank would be in charge of a ‘killing squad’.

After Ferguson’s arrest, members of the Opposition had come out attacking the Police Force, but Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn condemned this act.

Laid in the National Assembly in 2016 by the former APNU/AFC Government, the Cyber Crimes Bill had catered for, inter alia: illegal access to a computer system; illegal interception; illegal data interference; illegal acquisition of data; illegal system interference; unauthorised receiving or granting of access to computer data; computer-related forgery; computer- related fraud; offences affecting critical infrastructure; identity-related offences; child pornography; child luring, and violation of privacy among a slew of other offences.

It treats with the creation of cybercrime offences, and contains provisions for penalties, investigations and prosecutions of such.

Despite criticisms over the bill at that time, the then Government was unmoved, insisting that the measure was for national security.