How we use communications data

Securing convictions: how communications data is used in investigations to fight crime, reduce fraud and to prevent terrorist attacks.

Terror attack on Glasgow airport, June 2007

Two car bombs were left outside a nightclub and in a street in London's West End, but failed to detonate. Two mobile phones were discovered in the cars; both showed missed calls that were the attempts to detonate the bombs. Communications data from these phones gave the police a wealth of material and they soon knew who they were hunting for.

Following the car bomb attempts, the two suspects fled from London, using public transport via Stratford, Stansted Airport and Stoke before heading to Scotland where they planned to launch a suicide attack on Glasgow Airport. The mobile phone recovered from the blazing Jeep at Glasgow Airport yielded valuable information for police building the case. Bilal Abdulla was found guilty of conspiracy to murder by planning car bomb attacks in 2007; his accomplice Kafeel Ahmed died from burns following the attack.

Drugs ring, Met Police, January 2010

Operation Frant led to the UK's largest-ever heroin seizure of 365 kilos. Following intelligence, police arrested the drugs runners in possession of the heroin and a detailed investigation of mobile phone call data around the time of the seizure led to the arrest of the two criminals masterminding the organised crime network. Four men involved have been jailed for a total of 81.5 years.

Gooch Gang, Manchester, April 2009

The Gooch Gang wreaked havoc on the streets of Manchester by dealing drugs and using an arsenal of semi-automatic weapons; they were led by Colin Joyce and Lee Amos. Communications data enabled officers to compile a hi-tech jigsaw of 80,000 mobile phone calls and texts to link the gang to their crimes. On 8 April 2009, 11 members of the gang were convicted for their parts in the four-year conspiracy, which involved the murder of two rival gang members, building a drugs network and using guns to enforce criminal activity. Joyce received two life sentences.

Fraud website, SOCA, 2010

The Serious Organised Crime Agency investigated an online forum and website with 2,000 members, which was selling stolen credit cards and identity documents online and spreading information about money laundering and electronic hacking. They used internet communications data to identify the locations of suspects around the world; subscriber information from an IP address gave them the identity of one of the key suspects. Further investigation of the data led them to other members of the group. Results:

  • two convictions resulting in imprisonment in UK
  • part of a global operation resulting in over 60 arrests

The financial investigation is ongoing, but proceeds from the crime hearing are anticipated to be £500,000 from two UK defendants.

International paedophile ring, Child Exploitation Online Protection Centre

Communications data was used by Lincolnshire Police and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre to investigate an international network distributing images of child sexual abuse.

This has resulted in 132 children in the UK being protected and safeguarded and a number of paedophiles being taken out of positions of trust, including teachers, doctors, youth workers and police officers.

Four men (from Lincolnshire, St Albans and Sheffield) were masterminds in running a UK-based -news service' website offering more than 1,300 suspected paedophiles in 45 countries access to millions of child abuse images. The web-based 'news services' operated by the offenders were businesses, which charged users to access discussion folders, or 'news groups'.

Internet communications data was used to identify all of the suspected paedophiles that were using the site. A total of 1.3 million emails were analysed, many manually, by detectives. The servers were seized and this gave police the internet communications data of people who had accessed the newsgroups. Those who had accessed newsgroups which were classified as illegal were identified and traced from their IP address.

The four men masterminding the network pleaded guilty to a number of charges relating to the distribution and possession of indecent images of children. The two men from Lincolnshire were sentenced to 33 months' imprisonment, the third was sentenced to 15 months in prison and the fourth received a 12-month suspended sentence.

Thirty-eight offenders have been dealt with for the possession of indecent images of children by way of caution or court sentence, including imprisonment. Many other cases are still progressing through the courts or are being investigated by the police.

The investigation into these suspects has led to the identification of a number of contact offences against children being discovered. In some cases, investigations into customers of the site revealed they were sexually abusing relatives or children known to them.

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