The Computer Misuse Act 1990, (‘the Act’), criminalised any unauthorised access to data and the practice of making modifications to stored information without the permission of the owner.

The Act followed the case of Regina v Gold and Schifreen in which the  two defendants hacked into details of a BT engineer at a trade show, obtained  access to BT’s Prestel service and, ultimately,  accessed the late Duke of Edinburgh’s email address.

In a recent case, Robert Davies was jailed for twenty months at Nottingham Crown Court following the discovery on his computer of indecent videos and pictures of children obtained by Remote Access Trojans, known as ‘RATS’, to remotely access his victims’ webcams without their knowledge.

John Veale of Kangs Solicitors outlines the Act and the potential consequences upon conviction for breach. The team at Kangs Solicitors offers vast experience in defending clients charged with criminal offence of every description including those involving the misuse of computers and data.

Our team is led by Hamraj Kang who is recognised as a leading expert in the field. He is one of only two solicitors nationally to be ranked as a ‘Star Individual’ for six consecutive years in the legal directory Chambers & Partners.

Other members of the team are ranked in the Legal 500 and also ranked in Chambers & Partners.

For an initial no obligation discussion, please call our team at any of our offices detailed below:

The Offences Created By The Act | Kangs Cybercrime Defence Solicitors

Section 1

1. ‘Unauthorised access to computer material.

(1) A person is guilty of an offence if –

(a) he causes a computer to perform any function with intent to secure access to any program or data held in any computer [or enable any such access to be secured];

(b) the access he intends to secure [or to be enabled to be secured] is unauthorised; and

(c) he knows at the time when he causes the computer to perform the function that that is the case.

(2) The intent a person has to have to commit an offence under this section need not be directed at-

(a) any particular program or data;

(b) a program or data of any particular kind; or

(c) a program or data held in any particular computer.

Section 2

2.   Unauthorised access with intent to commit or facilitate commission of further offences.

(1) A person is guilty of an offence under this section if he commits an offence under section 1 above … with intent –

(a) to commit an offence to which this section applies; or

(b) to facilitate the commission of such an offence (whether by himself or by any other person);

and the offence he intends to commit or facilitate is referred to below in this section as the further offence.

(2) This section applies to offences –

(a) for which the sentence is fixed by law; or

(b) for which a person who has attained the age of ……(eighteen in relation to England and Wales) and has no previous convictions may be sentenced to imprisonment for a term of five years (or, in England and Wales, might be so sentenced but for the restrictions imposed by section 33 of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980).

Section 3

3.  Unauthorised acts with intent to impair, or with recklessness as to impairing, operation of computer, etc.              

(1) A person is guilty of an offence if-

(a) he does any unauthorised act in relation to a computer;

(b) at the time when he does the act, he knows that it is unauthorised; and

(c) either subsection (2) or subsection (3) below applies.  

(2) This subsection applies if the person intends by doing the act—

(a)  to impair the operation of any computer;

(b)  to prevent or hinder access to any program or data held in any computer; 

(c) to impair the operation of any such program or the reliability of any such data; 

(d) to enable any of the things mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (c) above to be done.

(3) This subsection applies if the person is reckless as to whether the act will do any of the things mentioned ……………

3ZA.  Unauthorised acts causing, or creating risk of, serious damage

(1) A person is guilty of an offence if –

(a) the person does any unauthorised act in relation to a computer;

(b) at the time of doing the act the person knows that it is unauthorised;

(c) the act causes, or creates a significant risk of, serious damage of a material kind; and

(d) the person intends by doing the act to cause serious damage of a material kind or is reckless as to whether such damage is caused.

(2) Damage is of a “material kind” for the purposes of this section if it is—

(a) damage to human welfare in any place;

(b) damage to the environment of any place;

(c) damage to the economy of any country; or

(d) damage to the national security of any country.

3A  Making, supplying or obtaining articles for use in offence under section 1, 3 or 3ZA

(1) A person is guilty of an offence if he makes, adapts, supplies or offers to supply any article intending it to be used to commit, or to assist in the commission of, an offence under section s 1, 3 or 3ZA.

(2) A person is guilty of an offence if he supplies or offers to supply any article believing that it is likely to be used to commit, or to assist in the commission of, an offence under section 1, 3 or 3ZA.

(3) A person is guilty of an offence if he obtains any article-

(a) intending to use it to commit, or to assist in the commission of an offence under section 1,3 or 3ZA or

(b) with a view to  it being supplied for use to commit, or to assist in the commission of an offence under section 1,3 or 3ZA.’

Penalties Upon Conviction | Kangs Computer Crime Defence Solicitors

Prosecutions for offences under Sections 1, 2, 3 and 3A may be conducted either in a Magistrates’ Court or a Crown Court and conviction may result, before:   

  • a Magistrates’ Court:                      

in a maximum sentence of six months imprisonment, a fine to the statutory maximum, or both.    

  • a Crown Court:

a fine, imprisonment for a period ranging between two and ten years or both.

A prosecution for an offence under Section 3ZA will only take place before a Crown Court.

A conviction may attract a fine, a maximum prison sentence of fourteen years or both. 

However, if serious damage has resulted to human welfare or National Security, a life sentence can be imposed.

Who Can I Contact for Advice & Help? | Kangs Computer Misuse Act Defence Solicitors    

If you are, or anticipate being, subject to investigation in regard to any alleged criminal offence(s), including those involving alleged misuse of data or computer technology, you should seek expert professional advice immediately.

The team at Kangs Solicitors is here to advise and guide you and may be contacted through any of the undermentioned.

Hamraj Kang
hkang@kangssolicitors.co.uk
07976 258171 | 020 7936 6396 | 0121 449 9888

John Veale
jveale@kangssolicitors.co.uk
0161 817 5020  | 020 7936 6396 07989 521 210

Tim Thompson
tthompson@kangssolicitors.co.uk
020 7936 6396 0121 449 9888