Accusations of computer misuse or hacking can be daunting and difficult to understand. Even lawyers sometimes lack experience in this area, and don't know where to start.

Having personal belongings like phones and computers taken away by the police can leave you feeling helpless and unsure what to do next.

Getting legal advice from a specialist computer misuse lawyer can make a difference even in the very early stages. This will allow you and your legal team to recognise the issues, what to do next, and how to defend your case forcefully.

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Table of contents

Being accused of hacking or a Computer Misuse Act offence can cause turbulence in your life. In most cases, those accused have never been in trouble before and so have no idea who to ask for help.

Often the police will raid your home and seize anything electronic. For some, this leaves them unable to continue with their work. In many cases, this leaves people without a phone and unable to contact others. In a world that is so heavily reliant on technology, this can leave you feeling isolated.

As matters progress, some find themselves facing employment tribunals and disciplinary hearings, even if no criminal charges have been issued. In a time when employers are increasingly protective over reputation, this can mean you lose your job, even without being charged.

While it should be innocent until proven guilty, it can feel as though investigators have already decided your fate.

Despite advances in technology, there are still many investigators, and lawyers, who do not understand computer-based offences. Without specialist computer misuse and hacking lawyers, it can feel as though everyone around you is clueless.

Due to the nature of the allegation, there will be extensive review of any device you are thought to own or use. As a result, the investigations move slowly leaving you in limbo for an uncertain amount of time. Often the police, or investigating authority, will keep their cards close to their chest leaving you further in the dark.

In computer-based cases, there can sometimes be a mental health background which the police have ignored, or has not been diagnosed. Lawyers are often not proactive in considering mental health. This can mean that they don't fully understand the case and their client.

You do not have to feel helpless in a situation like this. Investigations relating to computer hacking can be and should be looked at from both sides. A specialist computer hacking solicitor will not just simply rely on what the police or their experts say.

If you have a lawyer who can identify what the issues are and what can potentially be done this will help you regain some element of control over the situation.

A lawyer who specialises in computer hacking cases, will also be able to properly explain this technical area of law, and how this could apply to your case.

Your legal team will also have access to their own independent experts who can look again at the prosecution expert reports and carry out their own forensic analysis on electronic devices that were taken from you. Their independent report may help identify where important details have been missed. This could ultimately be used by your defence team to show that you are innocent.

We can fight back on your behalf. Our specialist computer hacking lawyers can identify the issues even at the early stages and what can be done to build the strongest defence.

We have extensive experience in cyber-crime and computer hacking cases, including representing an employee-turned-whistleblower in the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal. One of the firm’s directors, Joseph Kotrie-Monson is the editor of the textbook Cyber Crime: Law & Practice.

In a technical area of law, we never lose sight of the fact that you are a human being facing a confusing situation. We will obtain and analyse the evidence as quickly as possible. We will also utilise our network of some of the top computer experts to carry out their own fair and objective forensic analysis.

We will instruct a barrister who specialises in computer hacking cases and will work closely with us and the expert. This will result in you having a hand-picked specialist defence team fighting your corner.

Don't panic - You can be proactive and get specialist advice and help early on.

Don’t go ahead with a police interview without a solicitor present - This is the same regardless of whether you are arrested or asked to attend for a voluntary interview, you should always exercise your legal right to have legal advice.

Do call us and speak to one of our expert computer misuse and hacking lawyers - We are happy to arrange a free initial consultation.

Don't try to delete any data - This could be a separate offence in itself if you are destroying potential evidence.


Frequently asked questions

In the UK, fraud and cybercrime investigations typically take a minimum of one year to conclude and sometimes significantly longer. Police and other agencies are often relying on specialist technical advice from outside. The evidence they are trying to gather comes from different sources, including devices seized, other investigations, ISP data and financial records from various institutions including banks. This is a fairly difficult operation to manage, and investigators are often running the whole thing on a restricted budget. If the decision is made at the end of the investigation to bring the case to court, it will likely be several months more before it is finished.

Analysis of electronic devices can take some time. With essential items like your phone, you may be better off obtaining a replacement as soon as possible rather than waiting for your phone to be returned.

Devices can be kept by the police which are relevant to their investigation, but they do not have a right to keep those devices longer than necessary. This means that if computers or hard drives can be 'mirrored' and returned to a suspect with their data intact, they should be. If the devices could be used to commit further offences, police may refuse to return them and ask the court for permission for them to be destroyed at the end of the case. For example, if there was information or software on a computer which was used to commit an offence, then the device may not be returned at all.

If the police ask you to provide a password informally, you don't have a legal duty to do so. But if they make a formal request using a section 49 RIPA (Regulatory Investigatory Powers Act) notice, you are under a legal obligation to provide a password if it is within your knowledge. If you have forgotten it, this is a defence, but you may have to persuade a court that this is genuine. The sentence for a s. 49 offence can be up to two years imprisonment, or up to five years if the case involves sexual offences against children or national security (for example if it involves terrorism).

Trying to assist the police as much as possible, by cooperating as much as you can and hoping they go away often does not mean it will all go away. The police and investigators can withhold information from you during the investigation stage. They may be hoping that you tell them everything before they have even analysed your computers to see what evidence there actually is or whether there is any case against you. They may try and get you to admit to something before they actually have any evidence. That is why is essential to always exercise your right to have legal advice from an independent lawyer before any interview takes place.

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