The Director of Public Prosecutions, Yvonne Atakora-Obuobisa, has called on Police Investigators to conduct proper investigations into reported child online cases for effective prosecutions.

Speaking at a two-day workshop on the Child Online Protection (COP) provisions in the newly passed Cybersecurity Act, 2020 (Act 1038) in Accra recently, the Director of Public Prosecutions further indicated that it is essential for prosecutors to learn how to present cases before trial judges especially with regards to issues bordering on the admissibility of digital evidence.

The workshop, organised by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) in collaboration with UNICEF Ghana, was to equip the COP stakeholders with the required knowledge and understanding on the COP provisions in the Cybersecurity Act and to and to encourage stakeholders to create awareness of the COP provisions in the Act for effective implementation.

The workshop was attended by representatives from the Judiciary, Office of the Attorney-General and the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MoGCSP), UNICEF-Ghana, Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service, Ghana Education Service (GES), Department of Social Welfare, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), NGOs, among others.

Justice Afia Asare-Botwe, a high court judge and one of the facilitators of the workshop, mentioned that the workshop was paramount, especially in creating the enabling understanding for proper use of digital evidence in the various child online related offences provided in the Act.

In her presentation, Justice Afia educated participants on the COP related provisions in Act 1038 (Sections 62-68) and stressed the need to continually interact with children and young people to understand the challenges they face while online.

The Head of Legislative Drafting Division at the Office of the Attorney General, Madam Mavis Amoa, noted that the legislation was passed at an opportune time especially considering the dimensions and trends of technological development.

She indicated that cross border crimes committed through the internet and other online crimes had motivated the passage of the Act, with the primary goal to protect citizens; there was, therefore, the need for a robust framework, including Legislative Instruments and Regulations, to support effective implementation of the Act.

In his remarks, the Head of NCSC, Dr Albert Antwi-Boasiako, said the Cyber Security Authority, established under Section 2 of Act 1038, would employ a consultative approach in enforcing its regulatory functions and therefore called on the various stakeholders who are impacted by the law to prepare adequately for its full implementation.

Dr. Antwi-Boasiako added that the Government, through the Minister for Communications and Digitalisation, Hon. Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, will in the coming weeks outline a number of regulatory interventions aimed at protecting Ghana’s digital ecosystem as part of the implementation of the Cybersecurity Act, 2020.

Dr Antwi-Boasiako further recognised Madam Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa, Justice Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe, and Madam Mavis Amoa – the lead facilitators of the workshop – for their invaluable contributions towards the drafting and the passage of the Cybersecurity Act, 2020.

He also commended UNICEF Ghana for its leadership support as well as other COP stakeholders including the National Communications Authority, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MoGCSP), Ministry of Education and Civil Society groups for their commitment to protecting the Ghanaian child on the internet.

A representative from UNICEF, Mr Rafiq Muhammad Khan, commended the Government for its commitment to Child Online protection and indicated his institution’s readiness to continue working with the Cyber Security Authority and other partners in the implementation of the Act.

Ghana’s Cybersecurity Act, 2020 (Act 1038) criminalises the production, possession, publishing, sharing and online streaming of child sexual abuse and exploitation materials. The Act also aims at protecting children and young people from the wrongful and non-consensual exposure of their intimate images in cyberspace.

The Act further seeks to authorise a service provider to block, filter, or takedown content that aims at undermining children’s protection online. Offenders could face up to 25 years in jail for breaching any of the provisions. Analysts believe such hefty punishments are needed to protect children who are increasingly being exposed to various forms of dangers on the internet including sexual exploitation.