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Home Office mulls fighting hacking with corporate ASBOs

Consultation on serious crime prevention orders planned

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The Home Office is consulting on the possibility of applying serious crime prevention orders (AKA corporate ASBOs) to computer hacking laws.

Serious crime prevention orders allow the courts to apply "injunctions" against criminal behaviour granted on the basis of the balance of probabilities rather than the much tougher standard of beyond reasonable doubt demanded in criminal cases. Breach of the orders would result in either a fine or imprisonment.

Consultation on the plan to apply this type of regime to computer hacking offences will begin in November and last for three months, according to answers to questions in the house to junior Home Office minister Alan Campbell last week.

James Brokenshire: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when sections 35 to 38 of the Police and Justice Act 2006 relating to computer misuse are expected to be brought into effect; and if she will make a statement. [226020]

Mr. Alan Campbell: Sections 35 to 38 of the Police and Justice Act 2006 were commenced on 10 October 2008 along with Part 2 of the Serious Crime Act 2007.

James Brokenshire: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans she has to extend the application of serious crime prevention orders to offences under the Computer Misuse Act 1990; and if she will make a statement. [226021]

Mr. Alan Campbell: The Government are currently preparing a consultation document to enable a full public consultation on this matter. It is expected that this consultation will begin in November and run for 12 weeks. The outcome of the consultation will determine whether the application of serious crime prevention orders is extended to include offences under the Computer Misuse Act.

Serious crime prevention orders were put on the statue books back in April when the Serious Crime Act 2007 became law. The use of the orders in a customs case, to guard against further offending by criminals due to deported after serving their time behind bars, has already attracted criticism from the security watchers such as Spyblog. The criticism that such orders can't be properly monitored or enforced when the subject is overseas is also relevant when considering how much preventive orders can do to stem the flood of computer hacking.

On the other hand such powers might be useful in discouraging UK-based spammers and other miscreants who in the past have often been prosecuted for offences other than computer hacking or breaches of the UK's toothless anti-spam laws.

The Home Office is yet to respond to our query on whether or not secondary legislation would be needed to apply serious crime prevention orders to the Computer Misuse Act. ®

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