Criminal Law Reform Now Network

Launched in 2017, the mission of the Criminal Law Reform Now Network (CLRN Network) is to facilitate collaboration between academics and other legal experts to gather and disseminate comprehensible proposals for criminal law reform to the wider community. We aim to include members of the public and mainstream media as well as legal professionals, police, policymakers and politicians. Our proposals might require legislation but we will not restrict ourselves to such projects. Reforms which public bodies such as the Home Office, Police or CPS could bring about by internal policies may interest us, as are reforms which require the support of some of the judiciary, bearing in mind the proper judicial constraints on law making. We will be ready to consult with and make suggestions to anyone who has the power to bring about reform.



12 Sep 17


Computer Misuse Act Project Update


Thank you to everyone who contributed to our scoping symposium yesterday; it was an enjoyable and productive event. In the coming weeks the CLRNN Committee will be working to form a Project Team to move into the research and report writing stage (see Project Process). If you would like to form part of this team, or for further information, please contact or  


04 Aug 17


Symposium - Reviewing the Computer Misuse Act 1990


The Criminal Law Reform Now Network one-day symposium on reform to the Computer Misuse Act 1990 will take place at Sussex University on 11 September 2017, starting at 10am and finishing by 4pm. Registration is free, but places are limited - Register Now. We hope shortly afterwards to assemble a writing team for the project, with a view to completion in 2018.


We have chosen the subject of computer misuse as our first project because, notwithstanding being twice amended, there are particular reasons to think that the Act has still not kept up to date with advances in technology (eg, whether smart phones should be regarded as “computers”, whether denial of service attacks fall under any of the provisions of the Act). At the same time, in some respects, it remains unsatisfactorily wide (the term “unauthorised access” is capable of very wide interpretation and common industrial practices such as time-locking may be technically illegal) and the absence of a public interest defence is seemingly inconsistent with the recent inclusion of such provision in relation to data protection laws.


Our first speaker, Professor Ian Walden, will give an outline of the 1990 Act, the subsequent amendments that proved necessary and of proposals that have not been implemented. Professor Peter Sommer will then speak of the concept of “authorisation” under the Act, followed by Naomi Colvin on the case for including a public interest defence. Lyndon Harris will address the difficulties in sentencing the offence in the absence of any sentencing guidelines, and Dr Audrey Guinchard will offer comparative perspectives on the issues so far under discussion. Finally Dr Nicola Searle will discuss research methodology in cyber- crime, concerning techniques for accessing trade secrets.


Other specialists in the field, offering both legal and non-legal perspectives will also be present. We will conclude the event with a group discussion, including an outline of further issues to investigate and the ways in which reforms might most likely be achieved, to be chaired by CLRNN committee member and project Lead, Simon McKay.


29 Jun 17


First Project Confirmed – Review of the Computer Misuse Act 1990


We are pleased to confirm that the CLRN Network’s inaugural project will be a review of the Computer Misuse Act 1990. The first step for the new project will be a one day symposium hosted at the University of Sussex on Monday 11th September 2017 – see details and registration here. If you have relevant expertise (academic and/or practice) and you would like to discuss taking part in this project, speaking at the conference and/or potentially forming part of the project writing team, then please contact us at or

The CLRN Network’s inaugural project will focus on the Computer Misuse Act 1990, working towards proposals for potential reform. As we begin this project, our aim is to identify areas of the statute most in need of further review, and we will be seeking wider views on this at our September symposium and beyond. The 1990 Act has remained controversial in its content and application since it was first created. The offences revolve around “unauthorised" acts, without defining the parameters of what this means, albeit that it seems clear that state-sanctioned hacking or Computer Network Exploitation has recently been avowed (in 2015) and may be authorised by warrant under new provisions contained in the Investigatory Powers Act 2016. But the absence of any form of public interest defence creates problems when any interference is "unauthorised", eg in the prevention or exposure of criminal activity. By contrast other legislation with comparable aims does make express provision for public interest defences as in the Data Protection Act 1998. In the age of so called “cybercrime” where law enforcement and private industry needs to respond to the proliferation of hacking-related offending there is a pressing need to consider whether it is time for the 1990 Act to provide specific defences arising out of a range of explicit authorised purposes.

We would also like to announce our commitment to a second project reviewing Private Prosecutions. This project will begin with a symposium hosted at University College London in April 2018 (details to follow later in 2017). If you have relevant expertise (academic and/or practical) and you would like to discuss taking part in this project, speaking at the conference and/or potentially forming part of the project writing team, then please email

We will not be taking forward any of the other projects proposed to us at this time. However, the CLRN Network will make further calls for reform ideas in time, which may include a review of previous proposals. Further, we remain open to publishing reform focused blogs and/or other papers on our website that will be taken into account when selecting future projects – if you are interested in knowing more about this, please contact