UCL Computer Science


The UK Computer Misuse Act 1990 and cases of technology-enabled domestic violence and abuse

How does the UK Computer Misuse Act 1990 apply to cases of technology-enabled domestic violence and abuse?

Black keyboard


Lead Institution: UCL 

UCL PI: Dr Leonie Tanczer

UCL Team: Professor Shane Johnson, Francesca Stevens

Academic collaborators: Frances Ridout

Industry funders: REPHRAIN

This project examines the occurrence and prevalence of technology-facilitated abuse (“tech abuse”) in court cases prosecuted through the Computer Misuse Act 1990 in England and Wales.

Tech abuse is described as the subversion of “everyday” digital technological systems, such as computers, smartphones, apps and cameras, to coerce, control, and harm a person or group of individuals.

It is estimated that nearly 85% of victims/survivors of domestic violence are subjected to some form of tech abuse. However, tech abuse crimes are often not considered domestic abuse offences.

Tech abuse activities, such as hacking into someone’s phone or installing spyware on a device, are likely to be classed as offences under the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

To date, there has been little analysis on the interconnections between cases of domestic abuse and the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

Through a mixture of systematic analysis of legal and news archives and interviews with academics and legal professionals, the project will improve our overall understanding of how the CMA is used in prosecuting tech abuse cases and ensure that legislation that addresses this serious and growing threat is kept up to date.