Teenager jailed for refusing to reveal encryption keys

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Lancashire man refused to provide passcode in indecent child images investigation

A teenager has been given a 16-week prison sentence in a Young Offenders Institution for refusing to give up the encryption key for his computer.

Oliver Drage, 19, was originally arrested in May last year and a spokesperson for Lancashire Constabulary told PC Pro that Drage was questioned “on suspicion of possessing indecent child images”.

When police tried to investigate Drage's computer, they found it protected by a 50-character password, which officers were unable to crack.

Under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, Part III, it is an offence to withhold passwords and the teenager was convicted last month of failing to disclose his key.

The legislation used here was specifically brought in to deal with those who are using the internet to commit crime

Lancashire police officials said the decision to sentence Drage reflected how seriously the courts took these situations, although under the law Drage could have been sentenced to up to two years.

“Drage was previously of good character so the immediate custodial sentence handed down by the judge in this case shows just how seriously the courts take this kind of offence,” said detective sergeant Neil Fowler of Blackpool Police.

“Computer systems are constantly advancing and the legislation used here was specifically brought in to deal with those who are using the internet to commit crime.

“It sends a robust message out to those intent on trying to mask their on-line criminal activities that they will be taken before the courts with the ultimate sanction, as in this case, being a custodial sentence.”

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