Police response to cyber-dependent crime is generally good, but it can be inconsistent, finds Inspectorate

Police forces and the National Crime Agency are generally effective at tackling cyber-dependent crime, according to a new report. However, there are too many local variations in the response to a national threat.

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Cyber: Keep the light on – An inspection of the police response to cyber-dependent crime

HMICFRS inspected how the police and the National Crime Agency deal with the threat presented by cyber-dependent crime and the wide range of criminals that commit it. This includes hostile state actors, organised crime groups, and those involved in online harassment.

The subsequent report, Cyber: Keep the light on – An inspection of the police response to cyber-dependent crime, identified several areas of positive practice, including:

  • efficient working arrangements between law enforcement agencies;
  • a well-established national strategy for dealing with the threat from cyber-dependent crime;
  • early identification and response to emerging threats;
  • the implementation of minimum standards and recognised performance indicators; and
  • the development of local cyber-dependent crime teams.

However, the Inspectorate warned that many of these achievements are undermined by inconsistencies in the response provided at a local level by forces. Specific issues included:

  • concerns around the financial sustainability of capability and capacity at all levels;
  • limited understanding of demand at a local level; and
  • some forces not fully complying with initiatives to coordinate resources.

Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Matt Parr said:

“The prevalence of digital technology has enhanced our lives and interactions in many positive ways. Unfortunately, however, it has also led to an increase in cyber-dependent crime. It is estimated that this type of crime costs the UK £1.1 billion each year.

“The police have had to find ways to combat this new threat. Our inspection found that many of these measures are successful in tackling these offences. We found that the response to cyber-dependent crimes was often of a good standard.

“We do, however, believe that the current 43 force model is not an effective way to tackle cyber-dependent crime. Preventing and investigating these types of crime requires a joined-up, coherent response across regional boundaries. Having 43 individual forces, often with different structures and responding to different demands, does not readily allow for the level of consistency and flexibility needed.

“As such, we have recommended that the government should consider the establishment of a national policing response, with regards to cyber-dependent crime.”

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Cyber: Keep the light on – An inspection of the police response to cyber-dependent crime


  1. For the purposes of the report, cyber-dependent crime was defined as “offences that can only be committed using information communications technology, where the devices are both the tool for committing the crime and the target of the crime” (National Cyber Security Strategy 2016-2012 (PDF document), Cabinet Office, 2016, page 74).
  2. HMICFRS is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing and fire and rescue services in the public interest. It assesses and reports on the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces and fire and rescue services.
  3. HMICFRS inspects all 43 police forces in England and Wales together with other major policing and law enforcement bodies. It also publishes data and thematic reports on areas of particular interest.
  4. HMICFRS also inspects all 45 fire and rescue services in England.
  5. This is the first time that HMICFRS has carried out an inspection specifically into the police’s response to cyber-dependent crime at a national and a regional level. For the inspection, HMICFRS visited ten police forces in England and Wales, all nine regional organised crime units, the National Crime Agency, Action Fraud, and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.
  6. HMICFRS has previously undertaken thematic inspections of cyber-crime issues in 2015 (Real lives, real crimes: A study of digital crime and policing) and 2019 (Fraud: Time to choose – An inspection of the police response to fraud).
  7. For further information, HMICFRS’s press office can be contacted from 8:30am – 5:00pm Monday – Friday on 020 3513 0600.
  8. HMICFRS’s out-of-hours press office line for urgent media enquiries is 07836 217729.