As commonly understood, cyber crime is crime which relates to computer or information technology. Sometimes a computer system may be both the target of a crime and the means of committing it. On other occasions, computer technology facilitates the commission of more traditional crimes. Either way, given the amount of information which is stored electronically, the volume of transactions which take place online and the way communications have been transformed, it comes as no surprise that cyber crime is growing so quickly. Cyber space is no longer the concern only of science fiction. Indeed, some police sources in this country have speculated that any falls in crime are illusory and that offending has simply shifted, undetected, online.

The 2013 Norton cyber crime report, commissioned by Symantec, put the annual price tag of consumer cyber crime as in excess of US$113bn. That is a global figure and offences may involve one or more jurisdictions. So there is no doubt that Matthew Richardson and his team of four co-authors have chosen a good time to produce a practitioners’ handbook on the law and practice of cyber crime.

The chapter headings give an indication of the book’s range. There are chapters on offences involving the misuse of computers, data protection, infringement of copyright, communications and communication systems, computer content and cyber harassment and cyber stalking. The relevant statutory materials are clearly set out, followed by cases and commentary. The last two chapters deal with the internet and contempt of court, and with criminal evidence and computer technology. There are useful historical perspectives which help explain how and why we have our present law and the reader will not want for information about denial of service attacks, Trojan horses, phishing, pharming, file sharing, data streaming and the like. Best of all, you do not have to be a cyber expert to understand it.

Of course, a well-constructed handbook for practitioners, which this is, can collate and explain the weapons at the disposal of law enforcement at any particular time. The broader challenges are to develop strategies for investigation and prosecution which are effective across different jurisdictions and to ensure that legislation keeps up with the different ways of offending which develop in parallel with new technology. The authors need to be planning for a second edition.

HH Judge Hilliard QC, Common Serjeant of London