Sentencing for computer fraud

What is the sentence for computer fraud?

There are many variations of computer fraud, but the goal remains the same – to obtain financial gain. Technology and the internet have made it possible to create many new ways to commit fraud.

computer fraud

Whether fraud is executed through obtaining personal information using electronic programmes, through confidence fraud or by sending SMS messages; each one designed to get money from innocent victims.

Computer fraud is typically implemented over the internet or through other communication methods such as SMS. There are confidence frauds, skimming, advance-fee frauds and investment frauds in addition to a wide range of scams.

The impacts of computer fraud are more than financial. They can also affect the psychology of the victim who can feel shame and embarrassment. In addition, they can cause physical health programmes and damage to personal relationships.

Anybody who is accused of computer fraud may also be accused of possessing, making or supplying articles for use in fraud.

To help you to understand what the outcome might be as a result of being convicted of computer fraud, 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.

Have you been charged or arrested for computer fraud?

The primary advantage of engaging an experienced computer fraud lawyer is that you’ll have direct access to legal guidance and support from somebody who understands the technical side of computer fraud. Assessing what your position is means you can take the first steps to ensure the best possible outcome. A competent computer fraud lawyer can examine your case for inconsistencies, which may even lead to a dismissal of your case. They have the power to ask to view all evidence from your prosecutor. They also have the knowledge and experience to craft a robust defence strategy for you.

You’ll immediately feel a sense of relief once you have a competent and experienced cybercrime solicitor on your side and by your side.

You must not attend a police station interview without taking a lawyer with you. To do so could put you in danger of providing the police with more evidence that could be used against you in their pursuit of gaining a conviction.

What type of actions are considered computer fraud?

There are over 30 or more different computer frauds. They range from identity fraud to account takeovers to loan scams, romance scams and vehicle matching scams.

Others are inheritance fraud, internet auction fraud, bank card fraud and click fraud.

Over the past few years, much has changed when it comes to cybercrime and the use of technology for committing criminal activity. It’s now a legal area that is sophisticated and full of rules and regulations that are highly regulated.

What is the average sentence for computer fraud offences?

Depending on what you are convicted of, the sentence could be as much as five years imprisonment coupled with a £5,000 fine.

How does a court decide on the seriousness of the computer fraud 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 computer fraud 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 of this nature 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 computer fraud 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 the discretion to apply whatever credit is deemed appropriate.

After these times there is a sliding scale of credit applied. This goes down 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 computer fraud offence?

Ancillary Orders

A court can also make ancillary orders on a defendant if they are found guilty and convicted of a computer 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.

In addition, 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 costs 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 computer 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?

Our highly respected cyber crime lawyers and computer fraud solicitors are uniquely knowledgeable with computers, have experience of hardware and software manipulation and understand the use of malware in executing automated computer attacks. The cybercrime lawyers will work alongside you to develop the best strategy, extract the most critical defence evidence and challenge the prosecution’s case, without compromise.

Our cybercrime and computer fraud legal team stay current with changes in the law and review all changes that take place. You will have access to a knowledgeable legal professional who has access to the most current information. You will be provided with the best defence and advice. Throughout the entire process, you will be supported by lawyers who can get you the best outcome. Our team have the legal experience, technical know-how and tactical expertise.

Stuart Miller Solicitors’ expert fraud solicitors and cybercrime lawyers are at the forefront of defending computer fraud cases. Not only do we have real experience and tactical abilities to challenge the prosecution in these cases; we have a proven track record of success in defending fraud cases.

We understand and have the skills to deal with cases involving ‘Nigerian Email Schemes’, ‘Phishing Emails’ and ‘Work at Home Schemes’. We are also familiar with the creation, adaptation and implementation of Malware Attacks to control other people’s computers and obtain data using automated programmes. We also handle cases with SMishing, Vishing and pharming.

Crucially, we have the expertise to handle large volumes of evidence and to ensure every piece of data is scrutinised to yield evidence which may strengthen your defence.

When to seek help?

Whether your case involves automated Malware Attacks, sending phishing emails, holding stolen data, selling stolen data or the use of stolen data; it is crucial that you seek very early advice to be prepared for the investigators’ questioning and prosecution tactics.

The prosecution must prove beyond any reasonable doubt that it was you sitting behind the computer involved in the commission of the crime. With the specialist Fraud Solicitors at this firm, you can seek assurance in the fact that we will do everything possible to ensure weaknesses and doubts are highlighted in the prosecution case and your chances of winning are at their best at all times.

Our computer fraud and cybercrime lawyers have access to some of the best Barristers and QC’s in the UK. We can engage the most suitable Barrister to stand side by side with your Solicitor to create an exceptional defence team. We will arrange an early meeting for you to discuss your case and the different strategies available with your Solicitor and Barrister.

We are proud of our dedication to win our cases and to achieve results. We adopt a pro-active approach to defending cases and believe in collecting supporting defence material early on, to be able to set a firm strategy for the defence case.

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 computer 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 computer fraud legal help.

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