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The UK will soon have its first court to exclusively tackle cyber-crime, fraud, and economic crime. Located in the Square Mile of London, the new court will hold 18 modern courtrooms and its inauguration comes at a time when cyber-crime continues to rise in terms of scale and complexity.
The new court will replace the old civil court and will join the Old Bailey as a major centre for litigation in the city that hosts more than 17,000 solicitors as well as hundreds of international law firms that generate billions of pounds in revenue.
"This is a hugely significant step in this project that will give the Square Mile its second iconic courthouse after the Old Bailey. Our rule of law is one of the many reasons why London is the world’s most innovative, dynamic, and international financial centre, and this new court will add to our many existing strengths," said Catherine McGuinness, policy chairman of the City of London Corporation.
She added that she is particularly pleased that the new court will focus on the legal issues of the future, such as fraud, economic crime, and cyber-crime. Costing an estimated £300 million, the court will be the first to feature a paperless system that will allow court staff to prepare case files and access them digitally in a courtroom during a hearing.
The timing of the court's launch is particularly significant considering that cyber-crime in the UK continues to rise in scale and complexity. In its report on serious and organised crime in the UK that was published in May, the National Crime Agency noted that not only has the attribution of a cyber-attack become more difficult due to the lack of distinction between nation states and criminal groups, the threat from UK domestic cyber-criminals is also maturing and that domestic actors are capable of damaging attacks.
In its report, NCA also highlighted the wide variation in sentencing for Computer Misuse Act (CMA) offences. "Whilst courts acknowledge the seriousness of the crimes committed, the level of sentence passed does not necessarily reflect this seriousness, and can appear low. As many convictions are under the Fraud Act rather than the CMA, this compounds the problem and furthers the perception of ‘cyber crime without consequence’," it noted.
While it remains to be seen whether the new court will change how seriously cyber-crime is treated and if convictions under the Computer Misuse Act (CMA) will increase, Sarah Armstrong-Smith, head continuity and resilience at Fujitsu UK & Ireland, told SC Media UK that the launch of a dedicated court for cyber-crime "is a positive step if the government is to keep pace with the increasing threat of cyber-crime".
She said that a collaboration between the government and organisations to make cyber-security a priority is necessary as cyber-crime is not a probability but is an inevitability that will affect the public at large if not contained.
"As we have seen in the past year, cyber-attacks can set out to completely paralyse organisations, creating havoc and resulting in a complete shutdown of services. Cyber-criminals are becoming increasingly bold, finding new and creative ways to reveal or steal compromising sensitive financial and personal data. That’s why it is promising to see new Government measures put in place to protect the nation from cyber-crime," she added.
Dan Pitman, senior solutions architect at Alert Logic, also told SC Media UK that considering cyber-crime suffers from being perceptually segregated from traditional crime and victims often don't even contact legal and law enforcement organisations when affected, the launch of a new court to tackle cyber-crime is a positive move.