§ Mr. Burstow
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list the terms of reference of the proposed cyber crime unit; and if he will make a statement on the role of the unit in relation to the criminal use of chatrooms. 
§ Mr. Charles Clarke
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary announced in the reply he gave my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Mr. Shaw) on 13 November 2000, Official Report, column 531W, that a National Hi-Tech Crime Unit would begin work in April 2001.
The National Hi-Tech Crime Unit will:
- i) investigate, or support the investigation of, serious and organised crime usually operating on a national or international scale, that wholly or partly involve computers or computer networks such as the Internet;
- ii) investigate attacks on the United Kingdom Critical National Infrastructure;
- iii) undertake forensic retrieval and examination of computer-based evidence gathered in its investigations;
- iv) provide the national point of contact for overseas investigators of international offences involving computer networks;
- v) provide technical support and advice to investigators in the police service and other law enforcement agencies across the United Kingdom;
- vi) work in partnership with local police and other agencies taking forward initiatives to promote information security and other hi-tech crime reduction strategies, and
- vii) liaise with industry on behalf of the police service, for example through the Internet Crime Forum, the Association of Chief Police Officers' Telecommunications Strategy Forum and the G8 Government-Industry Dialogue on Confidence and Security in Cyberspace, to support co-operation between law enforcement and industry in the detection, investigation and reduction of hi-tech crime.
Potentially, use of internet chatrooms by criminals can feature in the conduct or commission of offences that have local, national or international impact.
Local police computer crime units will investigate and gather evidence of crimes that have a local impact and wholly or partly involve computers or computer networks such as the internet. The scope of these crimes will be wide ranging, from very minor offences to the most serious such as murder or sexual assault.
The National Hi-Tech Crime Unit will investigate the use of internet chatrooms by criminals where that features in its investigations or the investigations it supports. The National Unit will also work with the police service, with Home Office researchers and with industry to develop and identify best practices for proactively policing the internet to identify and prosecute paedophiles who use newsgroups and chatrooms to disseminate illegal material and facilitate other illegal activities.