Computer technology impacts each and every one of us every second of every day, but we rarely stop to think about the enormous implications of this. Advances in IT occur so rapidly that it is impossible for legislation to keep up, and appellate guidance lags even further behind.

The principal criminal legislation is contained in the Computer Misuse Act 1990. In 1990, a top of the range desktop computer had a 20MB hard disk. Tim Berners-Lee had only just invented HTML (the foundation of the modern internet). There have been a few, poorly thought-out amendments to the CMA since then, but it remains fundamentally unchanged.

Consider the following two scenarios:

  1. You find and read your partner’s written diary – morally questionable, but entirely legal
  2. Your partner leaves their phone on the coffee table and you have a look at their WhatsApp messages – you commit an offence punishable by 2 years imprisonment.

The same two acts, but when one involves unauthorised access to data contained on a computer, that’s a crime.

If you alter such data, things become much more serious. Consider this:

  1. After a drunken Christmas party, you decide to tell your boss exactly what you think of him. You write him a letter and leave it on his desk. The following morning, when you sober up, you regret this, arrive at work early and tear up the letter. This is entirely legal
  2. Same situation, only you put your thoughts in an email. Your boss has left his login details on a Post-It note stuck to his monitor, so the following morning you access his account and delete last night’s email. You commit an offence punishable by 10 years imprisonment.

The stakes become so much higher due to the involvement of digital technology.

Cybercrime encompasses a huge range of offences, e.g. hacking, unauthorised access, intellectual property infringement, illegal file content. But in almost every criminal investigation, IT evidence plays a major role, i.e. phone contents, internet search history, encrypted communications.

Presentation of these cases requires expert knowledge, both to prosecute and defend. As George Bernard Shaw said: “All professions are conspiracies against the laity”, and nowhere is that truer than in the field of computer forensics.

It is all too easy to be overawed by technical jargon, but experience has shown that there are several ways in which, with the right level of expertise, successful challenges can be made to the evidence of so-called “experts”. It is vital, when dealing with a case involving computer evidence, to ensure that you have knowledgeable, expert advice in order to deal with this fast-moving area of law.

For more information please contact our clerks on 020 7404 1881 or via email to We will discuss your case with you and then arrange the right representation for your matter.

Cybercrime Barristers

Robert Bryan

Call 1992

Jonathan Green

Call 1993

John McNally

Call 1996

Lynne Shirley

Call 2002

Unyime Davies

Unyime Davies

Call 2006

Helen Easterbrook

Call 2011

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