Man jailed for withholding encryption key

A 19-year-old UK man has been sentenced to four month in prison after refusing to hand the encryption key to his PC over to police.

Oliver Drage was given a 16-week custodial sentence by Preston Crown Court this week after reusing to disclose the 50-character code required to decrypt the concents of his computer. Drage was initially arrested in May 2009 as part of a police investigation into child sex abuse.

Drage was prosecuted under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. Changes to the Act made three years ago allow courts to award prison sentences of up to two years to suspects who refuse to disclose computer password or encryption details during police investigations.

"Computer systems are constantly advancing and the legislation used here was specifically brought in to deal with those who are using the Internet to commit crime," said Lancashire police spokesperson Det Sgt Neil Fowler in a statement. "It sends a robust message out to those intent on trying to mask their online criminal activities that they will be taken before the courts with the ultimate sanction, as in this case, being a custodial sentence."

Peter Done

Peter Done is managing director of Peninsula Business Services, the personnel and employment law consultancy he set up having already built a successful betting shop business.

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