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Computer Misuse and Extradition
[This case was appealed all the way to the House of Lords. This note about the first instance decision is retained for interest.]
In an age of communications across national frontiers, it is sometimes felt that people can side-step the control of the law. This is not entirely true and a recent case shows that British courts are prepared to extradite British citizens to face prosecution abroad for offences equivalent to our Computer Misuse Act 1990. The case involved is Regina v Bow Street Magistrates Court Ex parte Allison QBD (Times 2nd of June 1998)
Here, an American employee of a credit card company was accused of using her privileged access to the computer systems to milk various credit accounts. In addition, it is alleged, she arranged to supply information to Mr. Allison in the UK who in turn used that information to defeat the ATM system by the use of the pin number details revealed to him.
The case does not discuss the guilt or innocence of Mr. Allison, but the question of whether offences under the Computer Misuse Act were extraditable to the USA in the absence of particular reference to that Act in the various regulations under the Extradition Acts. It was held that offences under Section 2 and 3 of the Computer Misuse Act, being offences punishable with more than one years imprisonment, were so extradictable.
Another, possibly more interesting, question discussed was the meaning of 'authorisation' under the Computer Misuse Act. The case suggested that within an employment situation, and without explicit company policies to cover the situation, an employee has actually has access to computers as part of his work will have the appropriate authority under the Act to access data.
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