MP wants to stitch 'digital' misuse laws into one bill

Coppers: A 'cyber' says what?

An MP has urged the government to consolidate the current 31 pieces of legislation touching on the misuse of digital devices into a single bill in order to tackle the growing number offences.

Liz Saville Roberts, Plaid Cymru MP, brought the Criminal Offences (Misuse of Digital Technologies and Services) (Consolidation) private members bill before MPs yesterday.

Speaking to The Register she said a single piece of legislation was desperately needed to ensure police and the Crown Prosecution Service have a consistent interpretation of the law.

"We currently have a situation where victims are approaching police and told that an offence is not a crime when it is, and other instances [where the opposite is the case]."

She said: "The legislation as it stands is complicated and there are a range of interpretation in how respond to front line request." Roberts believes having one piece of legislation that deals directly with digital offences could also improve police awareness about what constitutes an actionable offence.

She added that the bill will also require additional police training as "only 7,500 police officers out of a total of 100,000 in England and Wales are trained to investigate digital crime".

"The police lead on the fight against digital crime. The chief constable of Essex, Stephen Kavanagh, warns that the levels of abuse on the internet are now at unexpected levels, and that the police are at risk of being 'swamped'." she told MPs.

She cited the College of Policing, which estimates that half of all crimes reported to front-line officers has a cyber element.

"Police experts state that there are as many as 7 million online frauds a year and 3 million other online crimes. Very many of these go unreported," Roberts told MPs.

The bill proposes to make it a clear offence repeatedly to locate, listen to or watch an individual by means of digital technology without legitimate reason. "Posting images without the subject’s permission and the posting of messages that are discriminatory or threatening, or that cause distress or anxiety, would become offences," she said.

Last week the the Crown Prosecution Service said adults should be charged if they use fake online profiles to harass others. ®

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