Computer Misuse Act

The Computer Misuse Act 1990 (CMA) is a piece of UK (England and Wales only) legislation that outlines several different offences concerning the abuse and unauthorised access of computing devices, including tablets, and mobile phones. The increasing complexity of the technology that is now on offer means that being charged with a crime under the Computer Misuse Act can be very confusing, which means it’s a good idea to find a lawyer that can help you make sense of your charges, and create a cohesive defence. 

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Computer Misuse Offences

The Computer Misuse Act is split into several different sections that deal with different types of computer misuse crimes. 

Section 1 CMA – Unauthorised Access To Computer Material

The first of these is Section 1 of the CMA, which deals with unauthorised access to computer material. For Section 1 offences the defendant must have secured access, or intended to secure access to computer info that they did not have authorisation for. 

Section 2 CMA – Unauthorised Access With Intent To Commit Or Facilitate The Commission Of Further Offences 

Offences classified under section 2 of the CMA concern situations where information stored on the computer has been illegally accessed with the intent of committing further offences 

An example of this would be when a hacker gains information from a computer system illegally about a deceased person, intending to use their identity fraudulently. 

Section 3 CMA – Unauthorised Acts With Intent To Impair, Or With Recklessness As To Impairing, The Operation Of A Computer. 

Under the CMA a Section 3 offence is one that stops a legitimate user from being able to access a computer. 

An example of this type of offence would be where a cyber attack takes place making the machine unusable, such as in the case of a ransomware attack. 

Section 3ZA CMA

Section 3ZA was added to the original 1990 CMA in 2015. A Section 3ZA offence is one that deals with the misuse of computers that impact vital national UK infrastructure. This means that in a situation where computers have been misused to endanger one or more of the following: 

  • Human welfare
  • The Economy
  • National Security 
  • The Environment 

Jurisdiction of the CMA 

While the CMA is an English and Welsh law, offences that fall under the remit of the act can be prosecuted even when they happened elsewhere. However, for this to happen a significant link to England and Wales must be established. 

What is affray?

Sentencing of CMA Offences

Acts that break the CMA are considered very serious in the UK and can result in both prison time and a fine. Indeed depending on the severity of the crime, and the section of the act that the offence relates to someone found guilty could be given a life sentence. 

What To Do If You Have Been Charged Under the Computer Misuse Act 1990

If you need representation or advice on offences committed under the Computer Misuse Act, contact our dedicated and skilled criminal law experts today.

Birmingham: 0121 674 4100

Willenhall: 01902 632 123

Emergency line: 07971 194 042  


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