AuthorMatthew Richardson


As computer technology has advanced – and along with it the development of the internet – the utility and benefits that they have brought with them have made them indispensable to modern society. With the ever-increasing reliance on such technology and its pervasiveness in personal and professional life, it was inevitable that it should come to be used in ways which society has decided are contrary to the public interest and therefore worthy of disapprobation and criminal sanction. To this end, Parliament has found itself having to legislate in order to criminalise certain acts involving computer technology which did not exist prior to the development of the technology. On the other side of the law, the courts have found themselves having to redefine the application of pre-existing criminal law in order to accommodate and incorporate the novel ways in which computer technology can be used to commit criminal offences.

The rise of ‘cyber crime’ (or ‘e-crime’) is increasingly a subject of media attention in the United Kingdom. The Home Office has declared that the United Kingdom risks ‘losing the fight’ against internet crime,1the revelations that child murderers Mark Bridger and Stuart Hazell had viewed child-abuse images online before committing their offences have led to calls for censorship and/or control of internet content in the United Kingdom,2the use of the international social media platform, Twitter, to make threatening messages has forced the Director of Public Prosecutions to formulate specific guidance on online communication offences,3

jurors are being sent to jail for misuse of the internet whilst trying criminal cases,4

and a recent joint report from the Office of Cyber Security and Information Assurance in the Cabinet Office has estimated the cost of cyber crime to the

1See ‘UK “losing fight” against internet crime, warn MPs’, BBC News online, 30 July 2013.

2See ‘Block child pornography on internet, say MPs after Mark Bridger is jailed for murdering

April Jones’, London Evening Standard online, 31 May 2013; ‘Cameron tells web companies to block child sexual abuse searches’, The Guardian online, 21 July 2013.

3See ‘Offensive online posts to escape prosecution if writers apologise, say new guidelines’, The

Telegraph online, 20 June 2013.

4See ‘Two jurors jailed for contempt of court after misusing internet during trials’, The Guardian online, 29 July 2013; ‘Juror...

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