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Online Crime

Volume 604: debated on Monday 11 January 2016

5. What estimate she has made of the number of crimes committed online in 2014-15; and how many of those crimes were (a) recorded, (b) investigated and (c) resulted in a conviction. (902907)

Crime is falling and crime is changing. Different types of crime may have an online element and an accurate national picture is critical to informing our ongoing response to cybercrime. That is why the Office for National Statistics recently published, for the very first time, initial estimates of the numbers of frauds and cybercrimes committed per year.

None the less, the organisation Kick it Out, which campaigns to kick racism out of football, recorded more than 130,000 instances of racist abuse of footballers and their teams via social media in 2014-15, and the chief constable leading on digital crime fears that the police are on the verge of being overwhelmed. What steps is the Minister taking to ensure that all police officers have the capacity to make risk-based assessments and to prioritise this ever-increasing crime appropriately?

The hon. Lady makes a good point. She has focused her parliamentary career so far on the issue of online harassment, although she did not mention that in detail today. She knows that it is something that she and I both take very seriously. We welcome the preliminary trial by the Office for National Statistics to better reflect fraud and cybercrime in statistics. Having a more accurate picture will allow us to take the kinds of steps that she has advertised to the House today, because we will then be able to get a better idea of the scale and character of cybercrime and to do the preparatory work that she has requested. I take this seriously, as she clearly does, and I know that the whole House will join us in that.

It is not just harassment that is done over the internet; it is also phishing and fraud. Does my right hon. Friend not think that the Home Office might have a role to play in educating internet users in how best to protect themselves against such cybercrime?

As I said, when we get to understand the figures more accurately—the measures we have taken to look at these matters in greater detail will allow us to do that—my hon. Friend is absolutely right that we will need to be precautionary in our approach. He is also right that fraud is a significant element of the problem. In dealing with online fraud, we need to measure what is happening, look at what can be done about it and take appropriate action, and that is exactly what we will do.

The media today reports that as more people use social networking apps such as Tinder and Grindr, reports of burglary and rape are rising. Can the Minister outline what assessment the Home Office has made of the problem and how it plans to attack it across these islands, in co-ordination with the devolved Governments?

The hon. Gentleman will know that we have a national cyber-security programme. We have invested more than £90 million in this Parliament and the previous Parliament to bolster the law enforcement response, and we will continue to make that investment. Indeed, the Government have committed to spending £1.9 billion on cyber-security over the next five years, including tackling cybercrime. It is about resources, earlier identification and preparation, but it is also worth saying that we have established the national cybercrime unit, so the Government are doing more, taking the steps necessary, tackling this seriously, listening and learning—unafraid of taking action.