A review of how the criminal justice system deals with cyber crime in Northern Ireland

Publication: 23/11/23
Cover of Cyber Crime Follow-Up Review
A review of how the criminal justice system deals with cyber crime in Northern Ireland

A Follow-Up Review conducted by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland has assessed progress in implementing recommendations aimed at enhancing the response of the criminal justice system to cyber crime in Northern Ireland. Chief Inspector Jacqui Durkin reported achievements and challenges in dealing with the evolving landscape of cyber threats.


Understanding cyber crime

Cyber crime can be defined as the use of technology to cause harm or loss organisations, businesses, services, and individuals. The development and use of devices like mobile phones and computers to share information, shop, bank or keep in touch with family, friends or to know what’s happening locally, nationally or globally has escalated the risk of falling victim to cyber attacks.

Like other crimes, cyber crime is under reported, but its complexity and fast development poses a growing menace, with financial loss and emotional damage impact.

Changing landscape and developments

Since the initial inspection in 2017, the cyber crime landscape has undergone significant transformations. Developments such as the 2018 Strategic Framework for Action on Cyber Crime and the launch of the Cyber Security Centre in 2020 demonstrate a proactive response to the escalating cyber threats. The Police Service and its Cyber Crime Team have played a crucial role in addressing the broader cyber crime threat through collaboration and contribution to national initiatives.

The establishment of Cyber Support Units within the Police Service was recognised as a positive development. However, persistent backlogs in mobile phone analysis and delays in retrieving digital evidence contribute to case delays in court proceedings.

Six years after the original inspection report, four out of seven recommendations were found to be achieved or partially achieved. However, the remaining three recommendations were not achieved.

Ongoing challenges

While acknowledging positive steps, Chief Inspector Jacqui Durkin emphasised the need for continuous commitment and resource allocation to counteract the evolving tactics of cyber criminals and allow specialist staff and front-line Police Officers to have access to the necessary technology and training to keep pace with this ever-changing landscape.

Inspectors highlighted that the lack of progress on the strategic recommendations made in 2017 meant better statistical analysis and management information was still needed in 2023 to support demand modelling to meet match resources to future needs in Northern Ireland. In addition, Inspectors found the strategic position of Cyber Crime in the Police Service was also under review at the time of fieldwork for the Follow-Up Review.


Addressing the complexity of cyber crime and future outlook

As cyber crime continues to evolve in complexity, the Chief Inspector emphasised that the Police Service should continue to review how services and resource capability are strategically organised, their technology keeps pace with developments and engagement with partners is further developed to effectively prevent and assist the investigation of cyber crime in Northern Ireland.


This Follow-Up Review highlights achievements and persisting challenges in addressing cyber crime. The dynamic nature of cyber threats requires continuous evaluation, technological advancements and collaboration with partners to address the ever-evolving challenges posed by cyber threats.

CJI is likely to carry out future inspections to assess the response of the criminal justice system to cyber crime in Northern Ireland.