hacking Offence solicitors

If you've been accused of a hacking offence, it's normal for you to be feeling stressed, anxious, and confused. As computers and the digital world take a bigger role in our day-to-day life, legislation regarding digital criminal activity has been updated accordingly. Although laws that outline hacking offences and punishments have been in place since the Computer Misuse Act 1990, you may be unsure of what constitutes a criminal violation, or what type of punishments are linked to these offences.

Here at Draycott Browne, we understand how disorientating being accused of a hacking crime can be, which is why we're here to help you make sense of the legal process and produce a bespoke defence that will guarantee you the best outcome for your unique situation. Using our knowledge and experience, we will collect evidence and endeavour to obtain the best possible outcome for you and your case.

Draycott Browne solicitors are a Manchester-based team of specialist criminal defence solicitors that specialise in handling cases of hacking offence charges. 

What is hacking? 

Hacking is an offence that is defined as gaining unauthorised access to data in another person or company's system or computer. Hacking is a serious crime, but it is also a term which causes some confusion since it encompasses a whole range of actions which vary in severity and malicious intent. On one hand, a person could be charged with hacking for looking at private information on another person's phone or computer screen. On the other hand, however, individuals may be charged with using sophisticated malicious software to purposefully access the financial data of a major computer for illegal and fraudulent purposes. In many cases, individuals may commit hacking offences without realising that they have been behaving illegally. For example, employees of a company may not realise that the information they are sharing is confidential, or that they do not have the rights to access a specific area of company data. 

What does the law say about hacking? 

As an offence, hacking is governed by the Cybercrime and Computer Misuse Act which came into being in 1990 following the rise of the internet. While hacking offences committed in the UK are always investigated by UK officials such as the police, foreign law enforcement agencies may also become involved if it is believed that the hacking offence in question is particularly serious or operating at an international level. Given that the law surrounding hacking is relatively new, it is imperative that anyone facing a charge of hacking has the help and guidance of a knowledgeable and experienced solicitor. 

Our solicitors at Draycott Browne have an unrivalled knowledge of this complex area of the law, having helped clients throughout the UK mount successful defences against hacking charges.

What counts as hacking?

Hacking violations can encompass a range of potential offences. You may be charged with a hacking offence if you are believed to have committed: 

  • Fraudulent cyber crime
  • The crime of sending malicious or offensive communications
  • Intellectual property crime or piracy
  • Cyberbullying or cyber stalking
  • Online blackmail
  • Illegal spying

In most cases of hacking, it has to be shown that the individual who committed the crime did so in the knowledge that what they were doing was wrong. In many cases, hacking crimes can occur accidentally, or without criminal intent. After enlisting your solicitor, they will work with you to gather your side of the story and help to prove your innocence. 

What is the punishment for hacking? 

In the UK, penalties for computer hacking are tiered, which means that they increase in severity depending on the nature of the offence that has been committed. Each type of offence has its own individual maximum sentence. 

  • Section 1 offences are those which involve gaining unauthorised access to computer materials. These are punishable by up to two years in prison. For a person to be found guilty of a section 1 offence, it must be proven that they were fully aware that their access to the area they hacked into was unauthorised. 
  • Section 2 offences are characterised as those which involve gaining unauthorised access to computer material with the specific intent of using that information to engage in further criminal behaviour. For example, this could mean accessing a company's bank details for the specific aim of committing an act of serious fraud, blackmail, or theft. Crimes of this nature are punishable by up to five years in prison due to the increased severity of the crime. In some cases, a defendant may be cleared of a section 2 offence but convicted under section 1. 
  • Section 3 offences is the most serious and is used to describe unauthorised acts of hacking which aim to either: 
    • Impair the operation of the computer or system 
    • Prevent or hinder access to any program or data that is held in the computer or system
    • Impair the operation of any such program or reduce the reliability of any data that is held there
  • Section 3ZA offences are regarded as tier three offences, but are more severe in their nature. Section 3ZA offences refer explicitly to acts which cause, or create a risk of causing, serious damage. Criminal convictions of this nature carry a maximum sentence of fourteen years, but individuals found guilty of a Section 3ZA offence may be given a life sentence if their actions are found to have caused serious damage to human welfare or national security. 
  • Section 3A offences include any activities which endeavour to make, supply or obtain malware or other articles that can be used to facilitate criminal behaviour under Section 1, Section 2, Section 3, or Section 3ZA. The term 'article' is used here to refer to any programme or data that is held in an electronic form, and that is used, or is intended to be used, to carry out an act of hacking. Section 3A(2) involves supplying an article that is likely to be used to carry out an offence of hacking under Section 1 or 3, and the offence carries a maximum sentence of two years. In such cases, it must be shown that the individual charged with supplying the article in question must have been aware of its potential to be used in criminal proceedings.

What are some common hacking terms?

  • Hacker: An individual with technical skills and knowledge of information technology systems. In the criminal world, a hacker is defined as someone who uses these skills for malicious purposes, to obtain or modify data, breach cybersecurity protocols, or damage networks or machines.
  • Virus: A file capable of modifying, obtaining or damaging data. Commonly able to replicate itself, some viruses present symptoms, but many will damage systems and files without the user’s knowledge.
  • Phishing: Typically used to obtain users’ data for malicious purposes, phishing attempts usually present themselves as instant messages or emails. Users can be sent to a fake portal where they may be prompted to enter information such as bank details, passwords, or personal and contact information.
  • Malware: A generic term used to indicate any malicious software such as viruses, trojan horses, spyware and other similar programs.
  • Ransomware: Malicious software that restricts user access to computer files, demanding a ransom to regain access. Some Ransomware will encrypt the computer files pending payment, while some will simply display a message coercing the user into paying a ransom, typically via cryptocurrency transfer.
  • Keylogging: A program used to track the user’s keystrokes. This is commonly used to obtain any personal information entered by the user using the keyboard, such as passwords or bank details.
  • Spoofing: Any attempt to deceive users, for example via fake online portals or malicious emails.

What should I do if I have been accused of hacking? 

Hacking is a serious offence with potentially severe ramifications. If you have been accused of a hacking offence, it is imperative that you contact a solicitor who has knowledge of this unique and relatively novel area of UK law as soon as possible. Here at Draycott Browne, our renowned hacking defence solicitors have an unrivalled knowledge of hacking law, and the experience and tenacity required to lead a successful defence. Our expertise in this field means that we are uniquely positioned to offer you the legal help, guidance, and advice that you require. 

Many of our clients are individuals who have never been involved with the law before and who find the ensuing legal process very difficult to deal with. With our help, you'll be able to make sense of the legal journey that you may face and receive bespoke help and support throughout.

When should I contact Draycott Browne? 

You should contact our team as soon as you become aware that you may be involved in a hacking case. While many people worry that enlisting the help of a defence solicitor will be interpreted as a sign of guilt, in reality, taking such measures is a logical way of ensuring that you receive qualified legal advice early on in your case and are equipped to successfully handle any future investigations that may manifest or develop. 

What should I do if I am arrested? 

If you are arrested by the police, it is crucial that you take advantage of your right to remain silent and obtain legal assistance and do not engage with any investigations until your solicitor is present. At Draycott Browne, our solicitors are available 24/7 to provide legal representation to clients during police interviews and investigations and we strongly encourage you to enlist our help before you communicate with the police. During the preliminary stages of any enquiry, the aim of the police will be to find evidence that can be used against you to prove a charge with the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service). Anything you say can also be used later as evidence against you. As such, it is crucial that you discuss the circumstances that led up to your arrest with a solicitor prior to your interview, and discuss together how you should approach answering any questions you are asked. 


It is not always possible to predict an arrest, which is why our legal advisors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. At Draycott Browne we have a team of professionals ready to assist you whenever you need us. We will represent you at the police station and thereafter to make sure you and your case are treated fairly and appropriately.


Unexpected legal fees can come as a nasty and expensive surprise. To assist you with the financial cost of defending your name, we can help you apply for legal aid to enable you to focus on what really matters. Our solicitors at Draycott Browne can guide you through the application process so that you have the best chance of receiving the financial assistance you need.


If you or someone you know is facing charges related to a hacking crime, it is essential that you engage the expertise of professional criminal defence lawyers who will be able to help and advise you on a defence strategy as soon as possible. Contact us today by calling +44 (0)161 228 2244. If you would like us to contact you, simply fill in our online enquiry form and a member of the team will be in touch as soon as possible.

We are highly regarded nationally across the legal profession and noted for consistently delivering positive results for our clients. Our expert Hacking Offences Solicitors regularly act for clients in Manchester, Preston, Blackpool, Liverpool, Leeds, Nottingham, Birmingham, and London. As a recognised criminal defence law firm we can represent you wherever you live in England and Wales.

By entrusting us, you can be assured that you will be working with a team of highly skilled and experienced Serious Crime Solicitors who have a thorough and comprehensive knowledge of this area of law.

Our legal team is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you need expert legal advice or representation, call us in confidence now. When you are facing the stiffest challenges, you cannot afford to settle for anything less than Draycott Browne.

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