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Bob Packham, Deputy Director General of the National Crime Squad
The Wonderland Club

Cybercrime is one of the fastest-growing criminal activities on the planet. It covers a huge range of illegal activity including fraud, computer hacking, industrial espionage, and organised paedophilia.

Deputy Director General of the National Crime Squad Bob Packham is one of the principle leaders in the development of the new National Hi-Tech Crime Unit. He answered your questions in a live webcast. Click on the link below to watch coverage of the forum.



Tim McShane, European Director of Cyberangels:

We are the worlds largest volunteer online safety organisation, educating adults and children in online safety and also acting as a neighbourhood watch and reporting scams, paedophile activity and illegal sites to polices forces and governments around the world. How do you think this sort of organisation will be of help to the new Hi-Tech Crime Unit and, given the huge amount of online criminal activity, do you look forward to a day when there will be a global Hi-Tech squad and the need for organisations such as Cyberangels will cease to exist?

Bob Packham:

It would be marvellous if we could ever get there but I think the reality is probably not. Certainly when the new unit starts work in April, I am sure we will be making contact with as many organisations that have something to add to this very, very real problem.

Dr. David Gable, USA:

Where do you see the Internet and those of us who make the Internet a possibility and a reality, assisting you in capturing more criminals, who the police were traditionally unable or powerless to pursue before?

Bob Packham:

One of the very difficult things that the law enforcement agencies have to tackle is the fact that the Internet is world wide. One of the things we have learnt doing the operation against the paedophiles on Wonderland was that the great difficulty of working across different jurisdictions. But as far as the people who design the Internet are concerned is that it is so loose and free and that is its real advantage both commercially and economically. But we have to get a balance somewhere between that and being able to monitor it appropriately when it is justified.

Karl Frost, Worstershire:

Do you think that your task would be made easier if some revenue could be raised by way of the internet to fund greater policing and monitoring of the internet?

Bob Packham:

We have recently been given 25 million by the Home Secretary to set up the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit. That sum is to set the unit up but also to bring police forces up to what we call a bench mark level in order to be able to do network investigations and also forensic retrieval. So the national strategy is to help police forces to come up to a good standard and also have the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit.

But it has been said to me quite recently that 25 million is a drop in the ocean in terms of the amount of money that is out there around the cyber community. It is a nice idea but I suspect quite a difficult one to implement.

Tim Davies from Leeds:

As a company involved in Internet development, how can we help this new unit catch these criminals?

Bob Packham:

One of the very jobs is for the national unit to have a good working relationship with industry. There is always a balance to be struck against implementing the laws and then working with people to solve problems and co-operate. So although I wouldn't be able to give a answer specifically about that company, the general answer would be that we would seek very early on to work closely with industry wherever we possibly can because they have got a lot of the solutions to the problems we are facing.

Mohammed Hussain, Derby:

How can I volunteer to stamp out these practices, I have 10 years experience of working in the IT Industry and feel that my skills would blend into counter-measuring practices which such individuals have been getting away with?

Bob Packham:

The notion of people wanting to help is a very good one. I think whatever influence that person can bring to the world that he is working in the IT industry would be very good to try and look at ways to try to overcome these problems.

Tony Golding, Kent, UK:

I would like to ask if it is not possible to have every ISP on their home page, forced to have a section where subscribers can click on an area where they can automatically enter any information on suspicious sites. If you consider it to be a cyber space neighbourhood watch I am sure it would take off in a big way.

Bob Packham:

Again the industry has funded the Internet Watch Foundation and they provide just that service. The Internet Watch Foundation is funded by industry but where people can make reports of sites that particularly difficult and dangerous. The telephone number is: 08456 008844.Their e-mail is It looks a promising idea to ensure that ISP do provide the facility to report sites that clearly are illegal - carrying paedophile material and so on. I do think that ISPs have a big role to play here and maybe they are not doing as much as they could.

Penny Mellor, UK:

How can I assist the police without breaking the law? I belong to a group from Sweden that have "ethical" hackers who track paedophiles and alert Interpol. I often during research come across what would appear to be very unsavoury sites; do I alert my local police or yourselves?

Bob Packham:

It depends on what it is that the person has come across. Again I would go back to the Internet Watch Foundation who provide that service. One of the things that they do on that site is they receive the report, they then look at it to see if there is an issue and if there is, they will report it onto law enforcement be it in this country or elsewhere.

Cassandra Oliver, Leeds:

Is there any way in which Internet service providers and newsgroups can be legally bound to remove sites whose titles imply illegal content from their listings?

Bob Packham:

This is one of the real frustrations for ourselves and indeed a lot of other people. The names of some of these sites are very obvious and there is an issue there. A responsible ISP should be looking at those sites and if there is illegal material on them then I think they have a got a legal duty to remove it because if they have it in their possession I think there are some potential offences there that they might well commit.

Colin Webster, Nottingham:

I think the government should place heavy fines upon Internet service providers who fail to ban sites with any pornographic images. Do you think this is possible?

Bob Packham:

The nature of the Internet means probably not but again I go back to the previous point that I think there are potential criminal offences if there is completely banned material, such as paedophile material, and if people have that in their possession, there are some very serious issues to be looked at there.

Jon Denby, Chesterfield, UK:

A representative was questioned about why particular sites cannot be closed down. I do not believe that such a measure would be greatly productive as the Internet is global. A much more valid question in my opinion would be why Service Providers (at least in the UK) cannot routinely monitor people's use of the Internet?

Bob Packham:

I hope they do because they have a responsibility for the sites they look after. However, because of the global nature of the Internet, if you get things right in this country and you do prevent illegal material being on the sites that are controlled by ISPs in this country then there is that danger that people will go offshore and move elsewhere.

If you are too tight and legislate too hard on it then the dangerous people will just move elsewhere. This is one of the concerns the Government have got in getting the balance right between the law enforcement requirements and the need to allow industry to develop and use the Internet.

Charlotte Goodman, London, UK:

Surely the key challenge is not the innovation required to tackle cyber crime, but ensuring that legislation remains responsive to the fast pace of technological advances?

Bob Packham:

This is a very real problem because legislation is falling behind a little bit. The problem we have however is this technology moves so quickly. The ability of legislation to keep pace with the innovation and change is going to be very important for the future.

Robert Oxlade, Heywood, UK:

Why in this country are the sentences for crimes, as those described on Panorama, seem so little when compared to other countries? Does this make the team mad when this happens after all the hard work is done?

Bob Packham:

Very recently the offence for which the distribution of paedophile images which previously was a mere three years has now been increased to ten. Also the possession of a picture which was six months previously has now gone up to five years. So the Government have moved up the tariffs on these offences.

John Carr, London, UK:

As we saw in the programme, some newsgroups have titles that make it quite clear that you are likely to find illegal material in there. Do you think they should be blocked to all UK users? Some people argue that if you did block them the material would simply spill over into other legal groups and therefore the problem would be harder to contain. I think closing down these groups will make it harder for paedophiles to ply their trade and therefore it is likely that it will save children from being abused in the future.

Bob Packham:

I think there are some issues there to make it far harder and again I go back to the role of ISPs - they must look at what sites they are looking after and managing and take appropriate action.

Sagar Hussain, Birmingham, UK:

We have debated at length on the Panorama Forum what probably needs to be done to stop organised paedophilia from happening on the Internet and most have feared the issue of Big Brother! Could you tell us what you think needs to be done to stop this on the Internet? What kind of measures would you like in place so that it could be either removed altogether or make it easier to be policed?

Bob Packham:

Again you have to have the balance between the Internet's ability and the tremendous advantages that it gives us world wide against the need for law enforcement. You could legislate to make things very, very hard and in many ways people would consider this to be over the top. But there is there balance that we have to strike all the way through.

Phil Hibberd, Kidderminster, UK:

Are you concerned that programmes like Panorama give suspects' insights into operational matters? Not just the technology employed, but also the way the police forces think, work together and the limitations that they are under? It seems to me that this vital intelligence is being given away rather freely.

Bob Packham:

There wasn't anything on that programme that gave away things that aren't already in the public domain buy we would always wish to maintain and protect the methods we use. We would also wish that the programme last night put a lot of people on notice and by doing that prevented a lot of offences being committed.

Paul Qureshi, Portsmouth, UK:

How do you intend to maintain the privacy of legitimate Internet users now and in the future, especially in the light of the increasing use of encryption? How will privacy of the innocent be protected whilst criminals are still monitored?

Bob Packham:

There are very clear guidelines under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act which allow for intrusive surveillance. Part of the National Crime Squad's work in tackling serious and organised crime and most of our work is around tackling drug traffickers and we use a lot of intrusive surveillance methods but we have to get appropriate authority to do that - so there are checks and balances. One group of people might well think we are doing too much and another too little. We have got to be in there doing appropriate things with justification.

Nick Field, Reading, UK:

How do the police cope with the now widespread high security encryption, such as PGP, which makes it practically impossible to obtain evidence?

Bob Packham:

Encryption is a problem and I think increasingly will be a problem. There is quite a controversial part of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act that deals with encryption. It is a piece of legislation that will come into force at the end of this year and will allow, with appropriate application, law enforcement agencies to ask for encryption codes. But again there has to be a fine balance there in terms of how that is operated and how it works.

Sarah, Dublin:

Are police forces complacent about tackling cyber crime - or is it that they just don't have enough resources?

Bob Packham:

I wouldn't say complacent but I would say that perhaps there is a lack of real understanding in terms of the scale of the problem. One of the big issues when we were making the business case to the Government for a national hi-tech crime unit was an almost complete lack of figures about how much hi-tech crime is there out there.

Peter Morgan, St Andrews:

I found evidence of child pornography on the net and told my local CID about it. They said they had a central agency in Manchester who would contact me. So far I have heard nothing. What do I do next?

Bob Packham:

I would recommend that that individual goes back to where they reported it and asks what has happened. Another way would be to report it to the Internet Watch Foundation who are there for that very purpose.

Kris, London:

As a software developer I'm aware that it is actually quite simple to write software that logs most if not all trading of child pornography in chat rooms. Will the hi-tech crime unit be maximising this ability or do you view it as an impossible task which cannot be undertaken to catch everyone who is involved?

Bob Packham:

We have certainly got to work with ISPs and that has got to be a partnership we develop and across law enforcement it is beginning to develop as well.

Allison Ebdon, West Auckland:

As a child protection social worker I have worked very closely with the police on similar cases, albeit on a smaller scale, to the Wonderland Club. I'm sure you understand that both agencies have differing agendas but some common goals. Do you think that the Police should employ civilian social workers within specialist Units to assist with such work?

Bob Packham:

I think the work of paedophile units around the country do work very closely. There are very good tried and tested ways of tackling child protection problems and issues. One of the things we did when we made the arrests on Wonderland is that each place we went to we took a police office working in the child protection area with us. So whether there is a role specifically for somebody working in that unit depends on the scale and size of what the unit are doing. But certainly there is a very important for all the agencies in picking up the aftermath of what is horrendous abuse.

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