HL Deb 20 June 1989 vol 509 cc131-2

3.8 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have plans to introduce legislation to deter and penalise fraud and damage perpetrated with computers.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)

My Lords, fraud and criminal damage are crimes. The Law Commission is considering the need for additional provisions specifically related to computers.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his reply. I do not wish to suggest any more legislation than is clearly necessary, but is he aware that theft and wilful damage can be committed from a distance with impunity by sophisticated hacking?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for not encouraging the Government to produce more legislation. I am sure that that will strike a sympathetic chord among your Lordships. I am bound to tell the noble Lord that most cases of theft, fraud and criminal damage would be caught by the present law. However, there is a strong argument for amending the Theft Act so that "deception" would include a machine responding to false representations when the person making them knows them to be false but acts as if they were true. There is also a case for putting completely beyond doubt that the damage done to a computer programme which is stored on a disc, tape or other physical medium constitutes the offence of criminal damage. We are awaiting the Law Commission's report and will consider what action to take when we have received it.

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