PROPOSED computer crimes legislation has been attacked for being a quick-fix patchwork that could complicate legal proceedings, boost legal bills and even encourage crime. Some of its critics say they might accept the proposed legislation because they have waited 10 to 20 years for it and urgent action is needed. They fear the territory's multi-million-dollar computer crime problem is growing. But Fight Crime Committee member and computer expert Mr Justein Wong Chun has warned that the Government's attitude and the proposal itself could encourage more computer crime. ''The Government has seen a long standing problem in its way so it is trying to push wishy-washy legislation through and get it over and done with,'' he said. ''But it is a bad start and a piece of legislation like this will have a worse effect. It could actually encourage the criminals to believe that they can simply get away with it.'' The first reading of the proposed Computer Crimes Bill took place early last year. The second reading debate is expected to resume within two months, and a Security Branch spokesman said it hoped the legislation would be enacted as soon as possible. The branch reportedly did not release the proposed bill for public consultation because it did not expect it to be controversial, but critics say this could be an indication of how the problem has been underestimated. Critics have warned that the legislation lacks a specific definition of ''computers'' with one saying it could create 500,000 criminals the day it comes into operation from people performing harmless functions such as sending junk facsimiles or stealing telephone numbers on a computerised watch. But some critics have become so concerned about computer crime that they now view the present proposal as a ''better than nothing'' measure to stop cash and information being bled from businesses and even private bank accounts. It has been difficult to prosecute operators who have gained unauthorised access for much more than stealing electricity. The proposed legislation would draw on amendments to the Telecommunication Ordinance, the Crimes Ordinance and the Theft Ordinance to specify offences and impose penalties ranging from $20,000 fines for unauthorised access to 14 years in jail for more serious offences. Those who want urgent action now hope the proposed legislation will at least deter or punish offenders ranging from student hackers to big-time operators, and put the onus on them to prove they had no criminal intent. The British Computer Society (Hongkong branch) has cited US reports that suggest even playful hackers breaching security of a major computer system can cost an organisation an average of US$250,000 (about HK$1.93 million). Superintendent William Tang How-kong of the Commercial Crime Bureau said the Hongkong problem could be worse than it appeared because no specific law had existed to cover businesses and encourage them to report problems. ''Overseas experience suggests our problem is as serious if not more so than other countries, because Hongkong is a place where computers are present almost everywhere.'' He said overseas authorities estimated only 10 per cent of offences were reported. The Hongkong Information Technology Federation, which represents computer entrepreneurs and distributors of systems, still wants the proposed bill scrapped. Federation president Mr Con Conway said it was a ''cheap fix'' and could cost millions of dollars later in drawn-out legal proceedings and appearances by expert witnesses to define terms. Like Mr Wong, Mr Conway believes the present proposal is ''a patchwork started 10 years ago and put together by people who knew nothing about information technology''. He said a panel of people including information technology experts should be set up to draft ''a sensible law'' and the information technology sector should be given a functional constituency. He also said the ''ludicrously low'' penalties proposed should be tougher.