MPs’ report on cyber offences casts doubt over government recorded crime figures

30 July 2013

Cuts to policing are adversely affecting the service’s ability to deal with the increasing threat of cyber crime, a report published today has found.

A Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into E-crime found that specialist internet crime officers could be cut while online offences were falling into a ‘black hole’, having gone unrecorded.

The committee also pointed out how, as well as providing a thriving platform for acts of fraud, the internet played a role in the tragic murders of April Jones and Tia Sharp, as well as that of Lee Rigby.

Harrogate PoliceAs of March 2010 there were 143,734 police officers in England and Wales. As of March this year this figure had dropped to 129,584

The Police Federation of England and Wales is the staff association that represents police officers up to and including the rank of Chief Inspector.

The Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) has maintained that cuts to the policing service of 20%, with a further 4.9% reduction to follow in 2015/16, have affected service delivery and official government statistics of recorded crime do not paint an accurate picture of the number of offences being committed.

The inquiry found that:

  • A quarter of the 800 specialist internet crime officers could be axed as a result of budget cuts
  • The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) faces a 10% reduction in funding
  • E-crime represents an increasing threat yet not enough funding resources have been allocated to tackling it
  • The government is using “controversial” figures as the basis for its policy-making
  • Improvements need to be made in the way in which E-crime is reported and recorded
  • Sentencing guidelines for E-criminals need to be reviewed
  • Current recording practices do not provide an accurate picture of the extent of offences committed over the internet
  • Criminals who steal relatively small amounts of money online are not being reported to police because banks simply reimburse the victims

Steve Williams, Chair, Police Federation of England and Wales, says:

It is extremely concerning that relentless cuts to policing are continuing at a time when there is a burgeoning cyber crime industry.

This report highlights how the government message that its reforms are working because crime is falling is one which is over-simplistic and misleading. It is also rightly acknowledges that online crime can play a direct role in other offences being committed.

Crime is clearly changing, not falling at the rate the figures suggest, and an unknown but extremely high number of offences are going unreported. The police service needs greater, not fewer, resources to deal with the challenges of the 21st century.

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