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Policing experts analyse the past 10 years of policing following a landmark year for UK law enforcement

  • Policing experts at The University of Law (ULaw) look at a decade of policing and crime trends
  • Revenge porn, trolling, malware and online scams have all driven increased investment into tackling cyber-enabled crime
  • Leading legal educators look ahead to how the UK force can evolve moving forward

The past year has been unlike any other for law enforcement in the UK. New laws were introduced in ways we’ve never seen before, with some legislation being passed almost overnight, while police were given emergency powers to help tackle the pandemic and enforce unique new restrictions on the UK population.

Following a ground-breaking year for UK policing, Jennifer Schmidt-Petersen, Programme & Student Lead for Policing at ULaw, has analysed how modern-day policing has evolved over the past decade, ushering in a demand for specialist digital policing in the service.

Cyber-enabled crime

The cyber-security industry has received huge levels of investment year-on-year in order to tackle the growing security threats from cyber-crime, with the UK cyber security sector estimated to be worth £8.3 billion last year.

This type of crime wasn’t seen a decade ago, whereas now, the police have had to ramp up their investment in software and hardware, as well as training officers to fight this type of crime. This shows a new focus in the type of crime needing to be addressed.

Data protection

There have been some landmark law changes that have impacted British society since 2010. Positively, we have seen legalisation allowing same sex marriages (2013) and notable rises to minimum national wage each year as part of employment law. Another big change came in 2018 with the introduction of GDPR.

The General Data Protection Regulation was introduced in place of the previous Data Protection Act to provide significantly more protection of people’s data, due to an increase in cyber enabled crime which doubled across a five-year period from 13% in 2015 to a quarter (25%) of all UK businesses falling victim to this type of crime by the end of 2019.

These regulations are highly complex with many intricacies, which has therefore created a demand for specialist training and software in law enforcement.

Cyber-bullying

With the development of social media and increased online interactions over the past decade, there has been a huge increase in the number of cases of online bullying. This type of issue was practically unheard of in 2010, but nowadays, with the increasing power of social media, this is a common problem in society, with some reporting that 43% of children fall victim to this type of offence.

There isn’t a specific legal definition of cyber-bullying within UK law, however, there are several laws that can be applied in cases of cyber-bullying or online harassment. These include the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, as well as Section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act 1988 and Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003. Recent years have seen some people lobbying for stricter rules surrounding cyber-bullying, with many of the major social networks being pressured to take action, so this is one area of the law we may expect to see significant changes in over the coming years.

Money laundering

The rise of online financial crimes such as fraud and money laundering has been massive in recent years. The number of money laundering offences has grown year on year to a point where money illegally laundered in London alone rose from £10 billion in 2007 to as high as £57 billion in 2013 , then a staggering £90 billion by the end the decade as developments in technology made businesses and individuals more susceptible to fraud.

As a result, the government introduced The Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017. These regulations are aimed at tightening up security checks around personal identification and policing the movement of money, whilst also introducing stricter risk assessments and penalties for all businesses in an attempt to control this ever-growing issue.

Commenting on what could be next for the force, Jennifer Schmidt-Petersen, Programme & Student Lead for Policing at ULaw, said:

“The past year has seen a number of changes to law enforcement which were brought in rapidly as the government sought to tackle the ongoing pandemic. Adaptability is a key theme of the 2025 Policing Vision and the emerging issues we have seen in recent years with the increased prominence of terrorism, cyber-bullying and cyber-crime, evidence the need for a modern police service and officers that are specially trained and able to tackle increasingly sophisticated crimes.”

“Because of this we developed our Professional Policing degree which provides students with the experience and education to excel in the modern-day police force. The degree covers key areas of policing such a digital policing, response and community policing, investigations and counter terrorism. It also provides optional modules in areas such as forensic and criminal psychology and cybercrime.

“The consistent fall in the number of police officers has been notable. However, a clearly mapped out vision, alongside the Government’s pledged investment in recruitment over the next few years, has opened more avenues for people to seek a career in policing. With the option of a specialist policing degree now in place, it’ll be interesting to see how UK law enforcement grows and evolves by 2030.”

To find out more about ULaw’s Professional Policing course, visit: https://www.law.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/policing/bsc-hons-professional-policing/