Labour Party conference: Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper reveals plan for new ‘identity theft’ criminal offence


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Indy Politics

A new criminal offence of identity theft would be created by Labour in an effort to combat the dramatic rise in online fraud, shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper will announce today.

She will also call for tougher sentences for gangs behind cyber-crime, which last year claimed more than 12 million victims in Britain. Ms Cooper will tell the Labour conference: “The problem is escalating by the day. The police don’t have the skills, the equipment or the structures to cope.”

She will argue that the law has failed to keep pace with the rapid switch by fraudsters to online crime, leading to confusion over which charge to bring against culprits. Labour would fill the gap by drawing up an offence of identity theft, Ms Cooper will promise.

She will accuse Theresa May, the Home Secretary, of complacency over the issue and urge the Government to instruct the Sentencing Council to review the sentencing guidelines for e-crime. Her intervention follows a Commons Home Affairs Select Committee report which raised fears that sentences for identity theft were too lenient. It pointed to the 18-month and seven-month prison sentences handed to two hackers who cost Paypal more than £3.5m, suggesting they would have been jailed for longer if they had physically robbed a bank.

Ms Cooper will commit Labour to establishing an industry-backed body to combat online fraud. It would be modelled on the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), which monitors the net for images of child sex abuse.

Peter Neyroud, a former Chief Constable who is a member of the IWF board, has been appointed by Labour to draw up plans for the watchdog.

Ms Cooper will say: “We live our lives online now, but criminals know that too. It’s a big risk for business – online trade should be a big area for economic growth – and it’s a big cost for all of us. When the credit card companies and banks write off so much fraud we all lose out from higher charges.”

She will say: “Families are already facing pressure and they will have to pay an ever higher price. It’s time the Government moved into the 21st Century and started to act.”

Sadiq Khan, the shadow Justice Secretary, will today condemn the Government’s “reckless” plans to hand much of the work of the National Probation Service to private companies. He will claim that public safety will be put at risk by the move.

Mr Khan will say Labour’s priority would be to stop victims being treated like criminals, citing the example of the 13-year-old sex abuse victim described by a judge as “predatory”.