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UK prosecutions for hacking appear to be be dropping

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The number of prosecutions under the UK's computer hacking laws may have declined over recent years, according to the latest available government figures.

The number of prosecutions under the Computer Misuse Act came in a written Parliamentary answer by Crispin Blunt, prisons minister at the Ministry of Justice, in response to a question from Labour MP Madeleine Moon. The written answer – available via Hansard here – gives a breakdown by year and seriousness of offence for computer hacking offences dating between 2006 and 2010, the latest year for which figures are available.

There were 25 cases in which computer hacking featured as the main charge brought in 2006, a figure that has dropped more or less steadily to 10 prosecutions in 2010. There were 18 prosecutions in 2007 and 18 in 2008 before a slight spike to 19 in 2009 before the abrupt drop-off in 2010. Both prosecutions under Section One, the least serious category – which includes simple unauthorised access to a computer – and prosecutions under the more serious charges under the Computer Misuse Act declined. Section three offences cover the creation of computer viruses and (more recently) the instigation of denial of service attacks. Section Two offences cover unauthorised modification (computer hacking) as a part of some other crime.

A total of 18 serious offences were prosecuted in 2006 before a swift drop off to a level of between six and eight such prosecutions in the years 2008 to 2010, inclusive.

With such a small sample of less than 100 prosecutions it would be rash to read too much into the figures, especially since the stats only cover prosecutions where computer hacking offences were the principal offence under consideration by the courts. So if a suspect was convicted of banking fraud or phishing as well as computer misuse, and received a harsher sentence for the fraud, then the computer hacking prosecution would go unrecorded.

In addition the figures supplied provide no breakdown on the number of UK computer hacking prosecutions that actually resulted in a conviction. ®

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