How can your life be complete without Yet Another Home Office Bill ?
This Bill extends the powers of the Police, mucks around with existing policing structures, creating extra bureaucracy, and contains a portmanteau of ill-thought out miscellanous measures, for which there has been no public consultation, and for which no cost / benefit case has been presented, whatsoever.
The level of complexity, obscurity, ineffectiveness and a total disregard for the costs which it will impose on the rest of society which this Bill displays, now seems to be normal for a Home Office Bill.
Why are these people allowed to continue to produce such shoddy legislation ? Why have their salaries not been docked, and any chance of an Honour blocked ?
TalkPolitics has already noticed how ineffectual and pathetic the proposed changes to the Computer Misuse Act 1990 are. We will have more to say on this later, but be assured that it is as badly draughted as we have come to expect any Home Office Bill which steps beyond its competence to try to deal with anything technical.
There should be a proper Green Paper, 12 week minimum Public Consultation and a Draft Bill of a new, internet and mobile phone etc. aware 21st century Computer Misuse Act, which makes a distinction between attacks on our Critical National Infrastructure and on real time control systems where lives might be put at risk if they fail, rather than every other less important system. What about the debate about criminal liability or negligently maintaining computer systems which attack or inflict damage on their neighbours in cyberspace ?
This botched attempt to cover Denial of Service attacks does not even have the merit of the Computer Misuse (Amendment) Bill 2002 put forward as a Private Bill by the Earl of Northesk in 2002, and it is apparent that the Home Office has managed to ignore all the debate and advice since then, given their ludicrous attempts to cover Denial of Service attacks solely for the proposed National Identity Register in the Identity Cards Bill 2004 and 2005 in the controversial Clause 31 Tampering with the Register etc.
According to the Explanatory Notes, the motive for this mess appears to be a box ticking exercise, so that NuLabour Home Office Ministers can pretend that they have complied with the Article 5 of the Council of Europe Cybercrime Convention and Article 3 of the EU Framework Decision on Attacks Against Information Systems, by increasing the criminal penalties, as a cheap substitute for actually tackling the core problems properly.
The increase of the maximum penalty to 10 years in prison and / or a fine, will make no difference whatsoever to the majority of computer criminals or amateur "hackers". The claim that it will make Extradition "easier" is also rubbish, The European Arrest Warrant includes the category "computer-related crime" provided that the maximum penalty is 3 years or more, a condition which is already satisfied by the current 5 year penalty.
Extradition to and from the USA regarding computer "hacking" offences is a completely different affair, as illustrated by the case of Gary McKinnon, who is facing his next court hearing on February 14th 2006. Such extraditions are complicated by the unequal way in which the Extradition Act 2003 does not require prima facie evidence to be presented in a UK court, although this has to be done (as is only proper) if someone in the USA is to be extradited to the UK.
The Police and Juxtice Bill also proposes to amend the already hugely complicated Extradition Act 2003, but without bothering to correct the anomalous situation regarding the USA, which is the subject of Early Day Motion 241, now signed by 140 Members of Parliament.
The reasons for there having been no extraditions whatsoever of any foreign based computer criminals (a couple of them have been lured to the UK where they have been arrested) have nothing to do with the prison penalties, and everything to do with the low prioirity given to computer crimes by the Home Office crime recording and police budget priority setting schemes. How could they possibly achieve their promised 15% reduction in the crime figures, if they actually recorded all the computer crimes happening every day ?
Since these "computer hacking" clauses are numbered well towards the end of this large and complicated BIll, we fully expect there to be minimal, if any, actual Parliamentary scrutiny of them, due to the inevitable guilotines which will lomit the time available for debate, which will be mostly taken up with the complexities and lobby group pressure over the proposed analgamations of police forces and the the powers of Community Support Officers.
Astonishingly, the Home Office now plans to spy on all domestic airlines and ferry operators, demanding advanced passenger information land freight ists. presumably so that the pathetic experience of attempting to match misspelled, anglicised versions of foreign names, often written in non-western eurropean alphabets, against so called "terrorist watchlists" can be used to inconvenience internal domestic travellers as well a international travellers, all without actually catching any real terrorists this way at all.
Even more incredibly the Police and Justice Bill proposes to do this by amending the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill which has still not yet finished its passage through Parliament ! What possible reason is there for these clauses not having been included in the original Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill, or having been presented as Government amendments to it ?