Teenage criminals should be fitted with wifi jammers rather than going to prison, top cop suggests
People who commit cyber-crime should be forced to wear wifi jammers to prevent them using the internet, rather than being sent to prison, a senior police leader has suggested.
While traditional crime is falling, computer based offences, including fraud, the sharing and viewing of indecent images and social media abuse, are soaring and now account for 40 per cent of all crime in the UK.
But one senior officer has said sending such people to prison is not appropriate or effective and we need to find new ways to punish cyber-criminals.
He said convicted criminals could be fitted with electronic jammers around their wrists or ankles which blocked wifi signals and prevented them from going online.
He said for many young people, being deprived of access to their smartphone or computer, would be an extremely effective punishment.
And where combined with education programmes to promote responsible behaviour online could also be effective in terms of rehabilitation.
Describing the idea, Mr Thomas said: "We have got to stop using 19th century punishments to deal with 21st century crimes. It costs around £38,000 a year to keep someone in prison but if you look at the statistics around short term sentencing the recidivism rate is extraordinarily high.
"So while we might feel good about ourselves that we have put someone in prison for 12 to 15 months,the chances are that person is going to come out of prison and commit more crime.
"We can continue jailing criminals but it is not going to help the long term situation and I speak as someone who has spent a career putting people in prison."
Basic wifi jammers are available cheaply and work by interrupting the frequency on which a signal is transmitted.
While Mr Thomas accepts there may be some practical and even human rights implications with the proposal, he said it ought to be something that the Ministry of Justice considers.
He told the Telegraph: "If you have got a 16-year-old who has hacked into your account and stolen your identity, this is a 21st century crime, so we ought to have a 21st century methodology to address it.
"This could be introduced as part of community sentencing, so that the 16-year-old does not have access to the internet or wifi for a period and then in conjunction they have to do some sort of traditional work in the community.
"Also they could be required to go on an ethics and value programme about how you behave online, which is an area that I think is absent at the moment."
Mr Thomas said the criminal justice system also needed to find ways of tackling the growing problem of crime committed on social media.
He said: "The fundamental question is how is it a young person thinks they can behave completely differently online to how they behave in person?