The government has finally committed funding to a specialist national e-crime unit, twelve months after a proposal was submitted by the Metropolitan Police and following years of pressure from business.
It will provide £3.5 million of funding, leaving the Metropolitan Police to provide £3.9 million in addition, taking total funding to £7.4 million over a three year period.
The original proposal was for £5.3 million, including £1.3 million suggested to start the new centre. The proposal has also been backed by the Association of Chief Police Officers, and the government is seeking extra support from business.
The unit is due to open in spring 2009, and it is understood it will work alongside the new National Fraud Reporting Centre, rather than being part of it. It will tackle all forms of crime involving the internet, but much of its focus is expected to be on fraud cases.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Janet Williams, the Association of Chief Police Officers' head of e-crime, said: "I am delighted that the Home Office has confirmed funding for this new unit that ACPO and law enforcement agencies have been developing. We can now work towards creating a national coordination centre to combat e-crime in England, Wales and Northern Ireland."
The high-tech crime unit that was originally in place was controversially absorbed into the Serious Organised Crime Agency upon the agency's creation in 2006. Since then, IT industry figures have raised serious concerns that they had no dedicated unit to which they could report online crime.
Home Office minister Vernon Coaker recently revealed the government was organising funding for the unit.
The government's "slow" and "disappointing" progress on tackling e-crime was in July lambasted by committee peers in a report.
The Home Office promised to regularly update the House of Lords on actions taken to tackle e-crime, after a scathing report by the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee.
The promise was an about-face for the government after it previously rejected a series of recommendations made by the committee, and followed on from an apology from the Home Office for having been "over-defensive".
Speaking to Computerworld UK, business and IT industry figures had said they wanted the e-crime unit to reflect proposals made by the Metropolitan Police, by making visible arrests of cybercriminals and not just acting as a reporting centre.
The current proposals are likely to soothe many of those concerns, with the government emphasising that the unit will "crack down" on internet offences.