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Sentencing for cybercrime

What is the sentence for cybercrime in 2024?

You’ve probably noticed that cybercrime is now a regular feature of the headlines and television news. As a result of losing tens of billions of pounds annually, the government are now taking an aggressive stance against those involved in cybercrime.


In 2015, The National Crime Agency (NCA) launched a highly publicised attack against cyber-criminals and the National Security Council described Cybercrime as a ‘Tier 1’ risk to national security, alongside terrorism and international conflict.

Whether you are accused of something as simple as illegally accessing a computer, or you’ve been caught developing and executing malware attacks, it’s important that you afford yourself some protection with experienced cybercrime solicitors.

To help you to understand what the outcome might be as a result of being convicted of cybercrime, we’ve detailed the sentencing guidelines below.  Please note that a competent and experienced solicitor may be able to get any prison sentence reduced or even avoid it entirely.

Read more information about the offence of Cybercrime

Have you been charged or arrested for Cybercrime?  

Whether it’s you or somebody close to you who has been charged with committing a cybercrime offence, you’ll want to ensure that you have somebody experienced supporting you. Attending court cases is very stressful and concerning. What might the outcome be? May you be imprisoned against your will so that you cannot provide for your dependents?

The best action for you to take now is to engage an experienced cybercrime lawyer who will be able to examine what’s happened and craft a strong defence for you. They may even be able to get the case dismissed for you so that you won’t have to stand trial. Alternatively, they may be able to negotiate a way to handle the situation outside of court.

Once you have a competent solicitor working on your case, you will feel a sense of relief and gain peace of mind.

What type of actions are considered breaking a cybercrime law?

Cybercrime is an area of law that continues to increase in legal complexity. Using computers and/or the internet, cybercrime covers a range of acts that are considered to be unlawful.

Two primary areas of cybercrime are:

Offences that use the computer to perform the crime:  for example, performing illegal acts such as hacking, spamming, phishing, deploying viruses and attacks that prevent service.

Offences when the computer is used as a tool to commit the crime – for instance, possession and / or distribution of indecent images, fraud, illegal downloads, cyberstalking, identify theft and hate crimes.

Every case is different, however, there may have been worms, trojans, viruses, spyware or ransomware involved. Alternatively, there may have been a Denial of Service (DoS) or a Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS). In some cases there is SMishing, vishing, phishing and pharming at the core of the crime.

In cybercrimes, there is often a grey area between being able to express yourself freely and that of being abusive on sites such as Facebook and Twitter. With regards to hacking, there are differences of opinion about what is unlawful.

It’s important to note that in some cases, individuals and companies have been unknowingly involved in an investigation without being aware that their actions were not legal. You may be surprised to learn that you or your company are now part of an investigation. In situations of this nature, it’s vital that you engage a competent lawyer. You need somebody who is not only experienced in cybercrime but somebody who knows the law well enough to have it applied in your favour in the courtroom. Ideally, the lawyer can get your case dismissed before it reaches the court stage.

What is the average sentence for online fraud offences?

Depending on what you are convicted with, the sentence can be as much as five years imprisonment and a £5,000 fine. Crimes that affect national security may result in you receiving a life sentence.

How does a court decide on the seriousness of the cybercrime offence for sentencing purposes? 

The information that judges are given with regards to sentencing are only guidelines, and each case will be looked at individually. One of the factors judges consider in every case of this nature is the defendant’s level of genuine remorse.

The following factors are considered when the court decides which sentence to give. They will look at:

  • Your previous conviction
  • Your level of remorse
  • Whether you’re being affected by what happened psychologically or emotionally
  • What happened in the case and what harm was done to the victims
  • Whether the agreement to murder or harm was carried through to completion

What are some of the mitigating factors that might reduce the cybercrime sentence?

Certain aspects of a case are known as the mitigating aspects which can influence the sentence that a judge gives. One of the factors judges consider in every case is the defendant’s level of genuine remorse.

The following are some of the other factors considered when the court decides which sentence to give. They will look at:

  • Any previous conviction
  • Your level of remorse
  • Your level of cooperation with the investigation
  • Whether the activity you took part in was originally legitimate
  • Your reputation / good character
  • Whether you have any serious medical conditions that require long term, urgent or intensive treatment
  • Whether you have a learning disability or a mental disorder
  • Whether you are the sole or primary carer for related dependents

Is it possible to reduce a sentence for cybercrime with a guilty plea?

In recent years, a number of changes have been made to the sentencing system in the UK to save the court time and cost and to protect witnesses from the stress of needlessly going through a trial. For offenders aged 18 and over, pleading guilty early on in a case can reduce a sentence by as much as one third (maximum). The later the plea is entered, the smaller the reduction.

‘Early on’ refers to ‘the first stage of the proceedings’ and means anytime up to and including the first hearing at the Magistrates Court or Crown Court for indictable offences.

If a plea is entered 14 days after the first hearing, for example, the maximum level of reduction is just 20% or one-fifth of the sentence. For indictable offences, the limit for a guilty plea to be made is within 28 days after the prosecutor has stated compliance with section 3 of CPIA 1996 and serving disclosure; although the decision is ultimately in the hands of the Judge who has discretion to apply whatever credit is deemed appropriate.

After these times there is a sliding scale of credit applied. This scale then decreases to one-tenth on the first day of the trial and to zero if entered during the course of the trial. In theory, the ten per cent could be given if the plea is issued after the opening speeches on the first day, but prior to any witness evidence being heard.

If the accused does not want to plead guilty, then it’s important for the solicitor to regularly inform the court throughout the trial of the reasons why the client’s plea is not guilty.

What are some of the other consequences of the cybercrime offence?

Ancillary Orders

A court can also make ancillary orders on a defendant if they are found guilty and convicted of an online fraud offence. These are extra elements of punishment that can be added to a sentence and include additional restrictions or requirements that can affect a dependent’s finances, your property or business or financial activity.

Ancillary orders that are typically added to the penalty for those who are found to be guilty of online fraud include:

  • Compensation for loss
  • Restraint orders
  • Reparation orders
  • Financial reporting order
  • Disqualification from directing a company
  • Confiscation orders

As part of your investigation, you may also have your assets frozen with the possibility of having cash or other assets seized.

Besides, the court may demand payment of the following if the accused is convicted:

Payment of costs applied for by the prosecutors

Although the police meet some of the costs involved in the prosecution, the damages of investigation are typically sought from the convicted. These may include the costs of:

  • The work done in obtaining enough evidence for prosecution either at the initial stage or later at the request of Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
  • Seeking medical or expert evidence as part of the investigation, (where a witness is required to attend Court, the cost of the attendance falls on the CPS).
  • Re-interviewing witnesses
  • The entire costs of the prosecutor, including fees for the use of external Barristers used by the CPS, can be recovered from the defendant, subject to means. At the end of the case, the prosecutor under The Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 will request the Judge to order a sum to be paid for the costs incurred by the prosecutor in bringing the prosecution.

Victims surcharges

The term victims’ surcharges can be explained as paying compensation to a fund for victims and can range between £20 to £170 depending on what sentence you were given at conviction.

How sentences can be added to national information databases

There are several national databases that hold information about individuals and any allegations made about them, their criminal and court records. These include the DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) which was previously known as the CRB (Criminal Record Bureau) and the Police National Computer (PNC).  Depending on what happened, whether the accused is convicted and what sentence was issued, the accused may be added to one or all these databases. Their purpose is to provide information to potential employers and to regulate the ability to take part in certain activities.

If your case progresses to court and you are convicted of online fraud and defrauding the HMRC tax office, your conviction will be noted on your CRB / police record. The period of the endorsement will depend on the nature and length of your sentence.

Below are details on how long you will be listed as holding a criminal record if convicted. This is something very serious to consider when it comes to future employment. The term ‘spent’ refers to when your name can be removed from the databases.

Rehabilitation Period
(the time it takes for the sentence to become ‘spent’)
Sentence Adult (aged 18+) at time of conviction Young person (aged under 18) at time of conviction
Prison sentences of more than 4 years Sentence is never spent Sentence is never spent
Prison sentences of more than 2.5 years (30 months) but less than 4 years Sentence length 7 years Sentence length 3.5 years
Prison sentences of more than 6 months but less than 2.5 years (30 months) Sentence length +4 years Sentence length +2 years
Prison sentences of less than 6 months Sentence length + 2 years Sentence length +18 months
Conditional Discharge Length of order Length of order
Absolute Discharge None None
Conditional Caution 3 months 3 months
Simple Caution / Youth Caution None – immediately ‘spent’ None – immediately ‘spent’
Other Including Compensation Order, Supervision Order, Bind Over, Hospital Order Length of the order / once compensation is paid Length of the order / once compensation is paid

How Can Stuart Miller Solicitors Help?

The cybercrime Lawyers at Stuart Miller have defended many different cases. They have sufficient technical knowledge to understand IT jargon, have been developed to appreciate your likely profile and interests and have researched the legal and illegal uses of software used in online crime matters.

We have access to a wide variety of hardware and software experts who can be called to give expert evidence in your favour. We have the resources and the skill to handle and examine the evidence that is likely to be part of your case. It is our job to scrutinise the evidence and identify weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, and we will do it without compromise. Our cybercrime solicitors are strategic thinkers. They believe in taking a pro-active approach to defending claims rather than waiting for the prosecution and being active.

Our cybercrime lawyers have won cases involving simple mobile phone hacks on a large scale, high profile television set-top box hacks, devious hardware distributors placing Viruses, Trojans and Worms in newly supplied machines. We have specialist expertise in defending those accused of online fraud and the malware employed to exploit weaknesses in the subject’s computers. We have developed specialisms in defending Intellectual Property and Copyright prosecutions relating to file-sharing.

Would you like to discuss your case before instructing us?

If you’d like to have a no-obligation chat with us before you instruct us to take your case, then call us today.

In addition to giving you a free consultation, we can also represent you at the police station if you’ve been arrested. We can look at securing your legal aid.

Please Contact Us and ask to speak to our online fraud lawyers and cybercrime solicitors to arrange a meeting in person, online or by telephone. If you prefer, you can WhatsApp us from the link you will find at the bottom banner if you open this page on your mobile phone device.

Get in touch with us now for cybercrime legal help.


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