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Cybercrime Case Examples

Cybercrime Case Examples

If you or someone you care about has been charged with a Cybercrime offence, it stands to reason that you might be curious about other Cybercrime cases. In particular, you might be interested in knowing what past cases were about, and how guilty parties were punished.

group of hackers

Cybercrime is now one of the most prevalent types of crime that occurs in the UK; many people end up accused of cybercrime offences even when they had nothing to do with the cyberattacks or hacking that took place. Even where individuals are involved, and admit to this, there can be unreasonable punishments levied against offenders, so having the assistance of an experienced cybercrime solicitor is vital. If you or someone you care about has been accused of cybercrime, you might be interested to learn about how the courts have treated cybercrime in the past and what you might be able to do to compile a successful defence. Keep reading to find out more.

What are cybercrime offences?

In recent years, the UK government has taken an increasingly harsh stance on cybercrime, which is considered to be a threat as serious to national security as terrorism.

There are a number of different offences that constitute cybercrime, and the prosecution will decide which one (or ones) to prosecute depending on the specifics of the crime and how best the legal system can respond to the particular harm that occurred. For example, a person may hack a computer to commit serious financial fraud, and it is better for the prosecution to accuse the individual of fraud than it is a lesser offence involving mere hacking. That said, usually the prosecution will indict an individual on several offences relating to the cybercrime, which may include:

  • An offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990, relating to attacks against computer systems (typically hacking or denial of service)
  • An offence under the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, relating to the interception of communications by a public or private telecommunication system or public postal service
  • An offence under the Data Protection Act 2018, relating to obtaining or disclosing personal data with consent, procuring the disclosure of personal data, or selling personal data without consent

In addition, there are a number of crimes that can be enabled by cybercrime, and in those circumstances the enabled crime is charged alongside any specific cybercrime offences. These include:

  • Financial fraud
  • Intellectual property theft
  • Selling illegal goods or services online
  • Cyber bullying (‘trolling’)
  • Malicious communications on social media
  • Child sexual offences, including child sexual abuse, online grooming, and indecent images of children
  • Extreme pornography and obscene publications

Cybercrime case examples

Case Details Judgment Date Sentence Link to Transcript
Supplying a computer file with customer data from the TalkTalk hacking scandal 30/01/2019 12 months’ imprisonment Court Transcript
Securing unauthorised access to computer material and unauthorised modification of computer material 12/04/2012 8 months’ imprisonment Court Transcript
Unauthorised access to a website and subsequent deletion of website data 17/07/2001 9 months’ imprisonment Court Transcript
Introducing numerous computer viruses to the internet 21/07/2003 2 years’ imprisonment Court Transcript
Fraud in the context of unauthorised access to computer material 23/03/2011 8 months’ imprisonment Court Transcript
Unauthorised modification of computer material and several offences related to unauthorised access to a computer 31/07/2013 2 years’ imprisonment Court Transcript
Unauthorised modification to a computer by a 16 year old boy who wanted to take revenge on a company where he was previously employed by continuously sending of fake emails impersonating the victim company’s HR manager 11/05/2006 Dismissed Court Transcript
Creation for sale of a DDoS (distributed denial of service) by a teenager to run so many requests on a network that the network would fail, leading to tens of thousands of attacks and £248,000 in sales (proceeds of crime) 27/07/2017 24 months’ detention in a young offender institution Court Transcript

Cybercrime case examples defended by Stuart Miller Solicitors

Instances of cybercrime are increasing as the world becomes ever more interconnected, and as London’s leading cybercrime solicitors, the team at Stuart Miller Solicitors have considerable experience in defending these types of crimes. Stuart Miller Solicitors have managed to ensure dismissals for many accused individuals, and even where there have been guilty pleas, the team has ensured that the legal punishments were as lenient as possible. Examples include:

  • A woman linked to very serious NHS banking fraud had her name cleared after the team at Stuart Miller Solicitors was able to prove that the woman became embroiled in a huge cyberattack on the NHS when hackers took control of her bank account without her knowledge and used it to launder proceeds of crime.
  • A man involved in a cyberattack on a gold bullion exchange that lead to hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of bullion being stolen was spared an enormous financial compensation order (that would have seen him pay back £300,000) by submitting a guilty plea with an explanation of his minimal involvement in the crime. The judge accepted the defendant’s account and ordered a nominal repayment of £1 in the light of that plea.

What are the sentencing guidelines for cybercrime offences?

Because cybercrime can be prosecuted as one or several different offences, there is no strict blueprint as to what any given cybercrime sentence will be. It may be that the offence is less serious and can therefore be punishable by a fine or a community service order, or it may be the case that the harm caused by the attack was such that a prison sentence is warranted. Much depends, of course, on the underlying offence that is charged.

For example, cybercrime involving fraud may be punished by up to 10 years’ imprisonment, and cybercrime involving bullying on social media might result in a restraining order or a fine of up to £5,000. In the most serious cybercrime cases, especially those that involve threats to national security, the individual found guilty may face life imprisonment.

What are possible defences for cybercrime offences?

Prosecuting cybercrime can often be very difficult because the evidence needs to tie the offending activity directly to a particular individual, and that may be tough where devices such as laptops or mobile phones are used for the relevant activity or communications (it is, after all, not always easy to prove who was operating the device at the time).

Most of the time, a cybercrime defence solicitor will construct arguments seeking to discredit this evidence or argue that the way in which it was obtained was unlawful. For example, if evidence was obtained by the police pursuant to an unlawful phone tapping of that individual, then the evidence will be deemed inadmissible and the case might well be dropped.

Where there is sufficient evidence to convict an individual, however, the solicitor must instead focus on certain circumstances that affect the culpability (how guilty a person is) of the individual in the moment. If one of the following defences are successful, the applicable sentence might be reduced or the case could be thrown out altogether:

  • Duress. If you are forced into participation in the cybercrime, either through physical violence, threats to your family, attacks on your business, or similar pressures, you may be able to rely on the defence of duress. This defence will only succeed if you genuinely believed that some degree of harm would have resulted if you did not participate in the crime.
  • Mistake. If you genuinely mistook the circumstances surrounding the alleged cybercrime and that led you to take actions that you would otherwise not have taken, you may be able to rely on the defence of mistake. Ignorance the law surrounding cybercrime is not the same as the defence of mistake, though, so you cannot simply state that you were unaware that what you were doing was illegal.
  • Insanity. If you were suffering from a mental illness such that you were unable to understand that your actions were against the law, you may be acquitted on the grounds of insanity. This defence does result in acquittal if successful, which means you could avoid a prison term, but it comes with the very serious consequence of potential hospitalisation under the Mental Health Act of 1983.

What is key in raising a successful defence is telling your solicitor everything you remember about the circumstances leading up to the offence and everything you know about your own involvement. Being 100% transparent about your role is critical to ensuring that the solicitor can determine the correct approach in building your defence, even if that means admitting things that you are not proud of.

How can I get further help?

To get more information about cybercrime offences and how they are prosecuted, please get in touch with the team at Stuart Miller Solicitors today. Our highly experienced team has handled countless cybercrime cases and can assist you with all aspects of building a defence, helping you to minimise the impact of the prosecution on your personal and professional life.

(This page was last updated on November 27, 2023.)


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