Increased cybercrimes due to lack of successful investigations and prosecutions - Dr Antwi-Boasiako

BY: Zadok Kwame Gyesi
The participants at the workshop
The participants at the workshop

The National Cybersecurity Advisor Dr. Albert Antwi-Boasiako says the lack of successful investigations and consequent prosecutions has led to increased cybercrimes because cybercriminals have not been deterred enough.

According to him, the challenges are further compounded by the difficulty in investigating and prosecuting cybercrimes due to its technical and cross border nature.

Speaking at a workshop on cybercrime and electronic evidence for criminal justice officials as part of this year’s National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) in Accra on Monday, October 26, 2020, Dr Antwi-Boasiako, said “Even where successful investigations and prosecutions have been carried out, the sentences for some of these offences are not deterrent enough to prevent reoffending.”

The workshop, organised with support from the Council of Europe and UNICEF Ghana brought together judges, prosecutors, officials from the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO), Narcotics Control Board (NACOB) and other security officials.

The month-long NCSAM is meant to educate children, the public, businesses and government stakeholders on cyber hygiene best practices, consistent with the Safer Digital Ghana campaign.

Prosecuting cybercrimes

Dr Antwi-Boasiako was of the view that the reason why investigations by the criminal justice sector have been a daunting challenge is because developing a case against a cybercrime suspect does not assume the form of traditional crimes and this present its own challenges to criminal justice actors.

“Obtaining electronic evidence which is fit for purpose to meet the threshold of criminal prosecutions has been a challenge to our hardworking law enforcement officials,” he explained.

He noted that “Authorities responsible for handling such cases usually face an uphill task when looking for evidence due to jurisdictional and cross-border related challenges.”

Dr Antwi-Boasiako also attributed the lack of successful investigations and consequent prosecutions to lack of relevant and up-to-date legislations to address issues of digital forensics and electronic evidence.

He added that lack of technical knowledge and relevant experience by investigating, prosecuting and judicial authorities also pose a challenge to successful investigations and consequent prosecutions of cybercrimes and related offences in the country.

He also cited lack of effective domestic and international cooperation arrangements to deal with existing and emerging cybercrime trends in the country.

Govt’s interventions

Dr Antwi-Boasiako, however, said the ratification of the Convention on Cybercrime, also known as the Budapest Convention has improved “our international cooperation efforts to mitigate cybercrimes.”

He noted that the government, through the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) of the Ministry of Communications has introduced a number of interventions to address the various challenges faced by criminal justice officials in dealing with cybercrimes and related offences.

He said the establishment of Digital Forensics Lab at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service through support provided by UNICEF Ghana and the establishment of a Digital Forensics Lab at the Economic and Organised Crime Office through the support of the United States Government as well as training and capacity building for the criminal justice sector through Ghana’s collaboration with the Council of Europe under the GLACY+ project were all aimed at enhacing the country’s capacity in handling cybercrimes and related offences.

“Through our collaboration with our partners, we have built capacity in the criminal justice sector, particularly the training of investigators, prosecutors and judges on cybercrime and electronic evidence and the facilitators of this course have been accredited by the Council of Europe as qualified Trainers who are now leading the capacity building efforts across the country,” Dr Antw-Boasiako explained.

He expressed the hope that the training “will strengthen our joint efforts in equipping the criminal justice sector with the tools that they need to contribute to securing Ghana’s digital journey through effective investigations, prosecutions and adjudication of cybercrime cases.”

UNICEF’s partnership

For her part, Ms Hilda Mensah, a Child Protection Specialist with the UNICEF Ghana, speaking on behalf of the Country Representative of UNICEF Ghana, Ms Ann Claire-Dufey, said UNICEF will continue to work with the relevant stakeholders to ensure the safety of Ghanaian children online.

She said UNICEF will soon collaborate with the Ghana Education service to introduce digital literacy programme for Ghanaian children.

She noted that such a digital literacy programme will help children to know the dangers online and how to go about their activities online safely.

Ms Mensah said UNICEF over the years has been working with the various key stakeholders to protect the rights of children online and to create a safe digital environment for children.