Computer Crime Research Center

Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice (Part II)

Date: December 24, 2004
Source: Australian Institute of Criminology
By: Russell G Smith

... high tech crime cases, such as in the case of United States v David Smith, where the author of the Melissa virus acted as a police informer and his assistance led to the convictions of Jan DeWit (author of the Anna Kournikova virus, in the Netherlands on 27 September 2001) and Simon Vallor (author of the Gokar virus, in London on 21 January 2003);
  • delivering lectures to the public/schools about the dangers of computer crime, and discouraging others from engaging in similar conduct, such as in United States v Richard W. Gerhardt (District Court of the Western District of Missouri, 13 March 2003), which was a case involving theft of passwords; and
  • performing supervised community service in the high tech field.
  • Although conventional punishments of imprisonment and fines are likely to remain popular with courts in cases involving serious computer crime, it is likely that some judges will continue experimenting with specifically targeted forfeiture and restriction-of-use orders. As we have seen, however, these can sometimes entail legal challenges or be counterproductive in reducing crime. Carefully framed conditional orders can, however, enhance the effectiveness of judicial punishment in certain cases.

    What may be needed is for evaluative research to be undertaken to assess the impact of such orders both on the individual offender as well as others who may be affected as a consequence of sharing the offender's computer at home or at work. Only when the results of carefully controlled research are gathered will we be in a position to assess the impact of such sentences in punishing the computer criminal.


    I am grateful to Neale Williams, intern at the AIC, for assisting with the research for this paper, and for the suggestions of two anonymous reviewers and an officer of the Australian High Tech Crime Centre.


    Dr Russell G. Smith is Principal Criminologist at the Australian Institute of Criminology

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