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E-crime cops make 21 convictions in three years

By Barry Collins

Posted on 16 Jul 2009 at 11:38

The Serious Organised Crime Agency's e-Crime unit has recorded only 21 convictions in the past three years.

The figures came to light following a question tabled by Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Grayling, who asked the Government to release details of the e-Crime unit's performance.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson revealed the unit was involved in 22 prosecutions and 21 convictions between April 2006 and March 2009.

The Home Secretary went on to defend the unit's performance in his response. "Prosecution is however only one of a number of tools available to help achieve harm reduction in line with the Home Secretary's priorities in this area," Johnson said.

"Resources are directed also to the development of new intervention techniques, to disrupt and deny criminal opportunities worldwide and to work with international partners."

The figures will once again ignite criticism that the UK is a soft touch for e-crime. A 2007 report from the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee claimed the internet had become a "virtual Wild West" and raised doubts over the Government's efforts to tackle e-crime.

And last year, a study claimed that incidents of online fraud in the UK had risen by more than 20% since 2007.

Meaningless numbers?

A spokesman for SOCA refused to disclose the e-Crime unit's budget or how many officers are involved. However, the spokesman said it was unfair to judge its performance on conviction rates.

"We don't measure success by numbers, we measure success by the quality of what we do," the spokesman said. "It's completely fatuous to judge performance based on raw numbers."

She cited SOCA's involvement in the closure of the DarkMarket cybercrime forum, which was estimated to have prevented $70 million of global fraud.

The spokesperson also highlighted the amount of time it takes to pursue prosecutions. "These cases take a phenomenal length of time," she stated. "An investigation that began three years ago may only have just got to court."

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