Son hacked into the school system- should he accept a caution?

(179 Posts)
Animavillis Sat 01-Feb-14 00:05:55

Hi, I'm desperately looking for some advise about my son's situation. He hacked into the school computer system and changed a desktop picture. In return, the school reported him to the police. After 3 months, the police decided to give him a conditional caution. Both the police, YOT and the firm which provided a duty solicitor during the police interview are nagging me to sign it. I am hesitant though because this will be on my son's record forever and he didn't do any damage to the school. His intention was to let them know that the system was insecure and easily accessible. What is going to happen if he doesn't sign it?

CouthyMow Sat 01-Feb-14 00:07:26

Could he not have just told the head of IT?! Are you condoning him doing this?

really1234 Sat 01-Feb-14 00:13:05

If he doesn't sign it he will be prosecuted I imagine.

I would sign and move on.

Pancakeflipping Sat 01-Feb-14 00:15:50

Don't cautions disappear off records after a certain amount of time?

A caution is a let off for something like this. Take it.

PatriciaHolm Sat 01-Feb-14 00:19:14

So why didn't he just tell them?

If he doesn't sign it , then the police will liaise with the CPS as to whether to charge him. So he could end up i court.

prh47bridge Sat 01-Feb-14 00:31:35

As he is (presumably) under 18 the caution will not appear in DBS checks after 2 years (although it will still be on his record which will be available to the police and the courts). If he doesn't accept the caution he could be prosecuted in which case he will have a conviction on his record. That will appear in DBS checks for 5.5 years.

Even if his intention was as innocent as you say this was the wrong way to go about it. He has committed a crime regardless of whether or not there was any damage. He should accept the caution.

BeyonceB Sat 01-Feb-14 00:34:50

My goodness, he's extremely lucky to have got away with a caution. I hope he's learned his lesson. Sign it and move on.

Quinteszilla Sat 01-Feb-14 00:40:10

Accept the caution. When dh was young he hacked his schools system and found the exam papers for the following day. With answers. These were distributed to his entire class. He was never found out.

MarthasHarbour Sat 01-Feb-14 00:41:21

I used to work with someone who was prosecuted for trying to make a similar point.

I agree with Beyonce he is lucky to get a caution.

Support your son by all means but not by condoning his actiins.

Avalon Sat 01-Feb-14 00:54:24

Can you get another legal opinion?

Mrscupcake23 Sat 01-Feb-14 00:58:19

I would see a solicitor it might not even get to court.

KissesBreakingWave Sat 01-Feb-14 01:10:12

The 'proving insecurities' thing is hogwash. He was showing off.

He should take the caution. It'll be gone on his 17th birthday. I got cautioned for several incidents of juvenile hijinks and it never did a bit of harm to my subsequent career. And the stereo bollockings from my father and a uniformed police officer did some good, with hindsight.

averyyoungkitten Sat 01-Feb-14 05:55:54

If it wereme, I wouldcheck first. It may be that if he wants to join the forces or gointosomething like teaching, it could well remain on his record and pre vent him doing so. CRB is enhanced for teachers, so such things do show up.

Very silly boy, he may well have put the breaks on his future overplaying silly.He may well be better advised to take the caution - but do check to see what it will and wont affect FIRST. That would be my course of action anyway.

averyyoungkitten Sat 01-Feb-14 05:58:24

I would also pay a proper solicitor. Duty solicitors are rarely what you think they are in my experience. Many are little more than legal execs.

StrawberryMojito Sat 01-Feb-14 06:03:56

If he refuses the caution, the police will go to cps for a charging decision. If they charge, he will go to court and could be convicted. If I were you, I'd take the caution.

lljkk Sat 01-Feb-14 06:04:20

it will never disappear from CRB checks.
1/3 of all adult men have something like this or worse on their records. Vast majority are law-abiding good people with good jobs. It doesn't have to blight his life forever, but check there isn't any alternative.
Sorry, it's a very unforgiving age we live in.

cafecito Sat 01-Feb-14 06:11:05

I would not recommend accepting the caution. However they have evidence to prosecute - would it be in the public interest to prosecute him though? I'd say a prosecution is disproportionate and defensible if it came to that. So, personally I wouldn't take it. Nope.

BadgerB Sat 01-Feb-14 06:22:51

I'd be sneakily proud of a son who could do this. He could have a great future in computer safety. Get independent legal advice before you do anything.

Verybadmummy Sat 01-Feb-14 09:31:03

Unfortunately the law does not give an excuse for wrongdoing along the lines of "I only did it to show you something was wrong". Your son should have just told the school about his concerns. I suspect that the reason was thought up after he was caught!!
I would accept the caution. It will not be there forever. There are v few crimes that remain active on someone record for life- the one that comes to mind is murder.
Hopefully he will not do it again as the consequences will be more severe next time!

DalmationDots Sat 01-Feb-14 09:39:19

This makes me even more angry about our Youth Justice system. A big over reaction over what is fairly typical (yes wrong but not hugely damaging or anything over than a teenager who doesn't wait to think of the consequences of his behaviour).
I would look into what happens if you don't sign, if it goes to prosecution, just sign.
I would be angry at the school for their overreaction IMO. They should be more worried about how to tighten their security. But everyone has different views on this sort of thing and when it is OK to criminalise young people.

DrankSangriaInThePark Sat 01-Feb-14 09:43:17

"I would be angry at the school for their overreaction"

I would be bloody furious with my child for getting himself into such trouble. If he is old enough to know how to hack, then he is old enough to take the consequences.

Support the school OP. By doing so you will also be supporting your child. Though I appreciate it may not seem like it at the time. As others have said, he is getting off lightly.

Chippingnortonset123 Sat 01-Feb-14 10:24:26

I would give him a Duke of Edinburh Award and a job managing computer systems and training.

prh47bridge Sat 01-Feb-14 10:41:14

it will never disappear from CRB checks

This is NOT true.

It used to be the case that any cautions and convictions would appear on checks for life. However, following decisions by the courts, many old convictions and cautions are now filtered and will not appear on any CRB/DBS check. This offence is one that is subject to filtering. Assuming the OP's son is under 18 a caution will not appear on CRB/DBS checks after 2 years whereas a conviction would appear for 5.5 years. If he is over 18 it would take 6 years for a caution to disappear, 11 years for a conviction. After the information disappears from CRB/DBS checks it will still be available to the police and courts but no-one else will know about it.

I would look into what happens if you don't sign

As others have said, if he doesn't accept the caution the file will be passed to the CPS for prosecution. As he admits the offence there is a good chance they would prosecute and he would be convicted. A caution is always preferable to a conviction. I stand by my view that he should accept the caution.

LadyMuck Sat 01-Feb-14 10:46:34

A caution is recorded in the same way as a conviction and is traceable for the rest of his life. The rules on what does and does not have to be shown on crb/DBS checks etc vary according to which way the wind blows, but a caution should not be accepted lightly. As a recruiter when I obtain a crb/DBS check I am checking for signs of dishonesty as well as violence or potential abuse.

I would talk to the school, as presumably a prosecution is very unlikely if they were unwilling to proceed down this route. Surely the school could come up with an alternative punishment?

cricketballs Sat 01-Feb-14 10:56:01

there is no black or white - your DS broke the law.

Ladymuch - what if someone physically broke into the school and sprayed a wall with graffiti? Would your response just to issue a detention?

ivykaty44 Sat 01-Feb-14 10:59:00

Never accept a caution, let the CP's decide whether it goes further.....

A caution will stay on his record forever but I doubt the CP's will take this further and it is a gamble I would take

ivykaty44 Sat 01-Feb-14 11:00:04

Never accept a caution, let the CP's decide whether it goes further.....

A caution will stay on his record forever but I doubt the CP's will take this further and it is a gamble I would take

EnlightenedOwl Sat 01-Feb-14 11:03:02

Accept the caution. He has got off lightly.
The law has changed and cautions will not show on CRB checks

Letting the matter proceed will only make things worse.

EnlightenedOwl Sat 01-Feb-14 11:04:51

DH is an IT security expert. His approach is that unless you have prior approval to carry out PEN testing (penetration testing) to expose vulnerabilities in a computer system then you are in the wrong and then this is the most important part - your son made a change and that's a huge nono.

The flip side is that DH reckons your son might be interested in using these skills for good and should learn how to do it properly.

cricketballs Sat 01-Feb-14 11:20:04

Computer misuse offences
1 Unauthorised access to computer material.

(1)A person is guilty of an offence if—

(a)he causes a computer to perform any function with intent to secure access to any program or data held in any computer [F1, or to enable any such access to be secured]F1 ;

(b)the access he intends to secure [F2, or to enable to be secured,]F2 is unauthorised; and

(c)he knows at the time when he causes the computer to perform the function that that is the case.

(2)The intent a person has to have to commit an offence under this section need not be directed at—

(a)any particular program or data;

(b)a program or data of any particular kind; or

(c)a program or data held in any particular computer.

[F3(3)A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable—

(a)on summary conviction in England and Wales, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or to both;

(b)on summary conviction in Scotland, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or to both;

(c)on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to a fine or to both.F3]

I would take the caution

LadyMuck Sat 01-Feb-14 11:26:26

Cricketballs, where did I suggest a detention? I would expect a school to have a fairly wide range of punishments - the ones I am involved with certainly do, and giving something back in terms of hours of community service may be more meaningful than getting a caution. Potentially every school playground fight could be a form of assault - would you expect your school to always ask the police to prosecute?

In the last 5 years the legislation under which convictions and cautions can be checked and show up in DBS checks has changed a number of times. A caution is on your record for life; when and whether you have to disclose it is a matter for legislation at the time, and none of us can predict what the legislation will be in 20-40 years time.

If the school is determined that they want your son to have a criminal record, then yes, a caution will not attract any additional sentence whereas a conviction would. Has your solicitor explained what the tariff would be for this offence?

LadyMuck Sat 01-Feb-14 11:27:39

How old is the child?

I can see why people are saying accept it if it disappears after 2 years and won't affect employment.

As an adult I would never accept one.

DameDeepRedBetty Sat 01-Feb-14 11:31:42

I'd want to take good legal advice on whether or not such a caution received at this age might have any impact on plans to move to or visit (eg) the United States in the future.

FairPhyllis Sat 01-Feb-14 11:33:23

He needs to think about consequences of accepting a caution that you might not immediately think of: e.g. if he ever wants to travel to the US and some other countries he would probably be ineligible for visa waiver and would have to declare a conviction and be interviewed for a visa (although I think for the US he would probably eventually be granted a visa if he was under 18 at the time of the offence).

It might make his life complicated in other ways you haven't thought of, so I would see a criminal solicitor before you do anything.

RufusTheReindeer Sat 01-Feb-14 11:33:56

Honest question

If he punched someone on the nose while at school that's an assault but is quite often dealt with internally

Did the school have to report him to the police?

It's probably to do with the assaulted person wanting to press charges but I don't know, I'm just curious

FairPhyllis Sat 01-Feb-14 11:37:18

BTW many immigration systems don't treat cautions as spent, ever, even if the country it was received in has a way of treating them as spent after so many years. He needs to think about if he'd ever like to emigrate or travel.

amistillsexy Sat 01-Feb-14 11:37:33

I think my actions as a parent would depend on what he actually did, where and how.
Did he do this during a lesson, for instance, or from home?
I'd be interested to know what changes he made. If he wrote 'I hacked the system' and left hid details, I might argue his case. If he posted a rude picture, he'd be in more bother than the cps could get him into grin
What were the circumstances, OP?

LadyMaryLikesCake Sat 01-Feb-14 11:38:39

So he went into the control panel of one of the computers at school and changed the picture on the screen, so just customised it?? confused Am I missing something? Seems incredibly heavy handed to me. Was the control panel 'admin only'?

FamiliesShareGerms Sat 01-Feb-14 11:40:36

Get independent legal advice and don't do anything under duress.

point him towards a career in GCHQ

LadyMaryLikesCake Sat 01-Feb-14 11:42:13

From your OP it just looks as though he changed the screen saver still confused That's really not hard. Could do with some more details.

LadyMuck Sat 01-Feb-14 12:31:58

And is he 11 or 17?

I can understand the process of getting the police involved etc to give him a wake-up call. But a caution just gives him a record, no sentence or additional punishment from an informal warning. But it counts as a conviction elsewhere because in order to accept a caution he has to admit that he did it.

I'm assuming that there is more to this, because, regardless of the potential relative severity of it as a crime, this would seem like a bit of an overreaction by the school?

cricketballs Sat 01-Feb-14 12:41:22

why is this being deemed as a little infringement? If he had physically broken into the school and defaced a wall then police involvement wouldn't be questioned - this is just the same! He broke in and defaced; just because it is not physical doesn't mean it is less of an offence

prh47bridge Sat 01-Feb-14 12:43:10

when and whether you have to disclose it is a matter for legislation at the time

The courts have decided this is a human rights issue. As such it trumps legislation. Indeed, the filtering that currently takes place is not covered by existing legislation. It takes place because the courts have ruled that the existing legislation is incompatible with human rights.

A future government could modify the filtering but if they tried to remove it completely or significantly increase the range of offences that are not filtered it is likely the courts would intervene.

many immigration systems don't treat cautions as spent

True, but few would refuse entry for a caution in these circumstances. A conviction would be more likely to result in a refusal.

Some of those posting advice seem to be working on the basis that if he refuses the caution nothing will happen. In reality the choice is probably between a caution and a conviction. Whatever he actually did once he got there, he has admitted hacking into the school's computer systems. That is a criminal offence and there would be a high likelihood of conviction. Under current CPS guidelines that means they would probably prosecute.

One of dds friends hacked into the school system and made some significant changes. He was suspended and now is not allowed onto the school system at all. If he needs to do computer work he has to work on a locked down laptop. This has really hit him where he hurts as he lives and breathes computers.

DontmindifIdo Sat 01-Feb-14 12:51:40

Is it likely the CPS would proecute? It seems like such a nothing crime (particularly compared to say, hitting someone at school, which as others have said, I've never heard of a police conviction following on from a school fight).

Plus would the school want the terrible publicity of proecuting? Surely the Head is also now hoping this goes away quietly, he'll be a laughing stock if it ends up in national press. (And might have to answer akward questions about how insecure their IT systems are, if I was a parent in the school I'd be thinking the head was petty but be concerned about my DCs records).

FairPhyllis Sat 01-Feb-14 13:16:43

Some of those posting advice seem to be working on the basis that if he refuses the caution nothing will happen

I want to clarify that in my advice to the OP I didn't mean to imply that nothing will happen if the DS refuses the caution - just that she and her son need professional advice to properly weigh up the chances and likely outcomes of prosecution against the consequences of accepting the caution. That is why I advised seeing a specialist solicitor.

He might also be barred from certain professions (e.g. solicitor) in either case.

Theimpossiblegirl Sat 01-Feb-14 13:16:43

It sounds like they should be encouraging him to use his abilities in a positive way. I'm not condoning what he did but a telling off would suffice as a first offence, he's just a kid and we're not America yet.

VoiceoversSoundSmug Sat 01-Feb-14 13:28:29

I would take the caution if I were you.

FootieOnTheTelly Sat 01-Feb-14 13:28:54

I agree with those saying we need more info.

DrNick Sat 01-Feb-14 13:29:11

but what did he change the picture to?

DrNick Sat 01-Feb-14 13:29:33

( that is what my osn wants to know)

PLEASE god its something brilliant

prh47bridge Sat 01-Feb-14 14:31:29

Is it likely the CPS would prosecute

Impossible to be certain but from their point of view this is a nailed on win. Unlike a fight there is no argument about who started it, who did what to whom and so on. It is very straightforward. It is up to the courts to set the penalty to reflect the seriousness of the offence (or lack thereof).

Plus would the school want the terrible publicity of prosecuting

If they don't they shouldn't have referred it to the police. It is now out of their hands. And as for the head being a laughing stock, I hope not. Whilst it seems not much damage was done the fact remains that a criminal offence was committed.

yourlittlesecret Sat 01-Feb-14 18:08:02

This happened at DS2s school. He did it because he could. Stupid and thoughtless but no malicious intent.
The boy was read the riot act and suspended for a week. No police.
It seems unfair that a school would rarely call the police for violent stuff and yet do this to your son OP.

Mrscupcake23 Sat 01-Feb-14 19:43:39

I think the school should have just dealt with it.

They should also review their security.

tiggytape Sat 01-Feb-14 22:49:54

It seems unfair that a school would rarely call the police for violent stuff and yet do this to your son OP

Secondary schools often bring in the police for violence and also drug / weapon related incidents too - it isn't that rare for them to do this because they have a responsibility to everyone else at the school.
It is less common in primary schools but, if the child is older than 10, it isn't unheard of for the other parents (assuming incidence of violence with a victim) to involve the police for anyone aged 10 and over.

There may be an argument to say the school could have gone easy on him and not reported it but OP hasn't stated the background to this or the school's stance on this or any extra factors such as what he changed. It is a crime. He is presumably way above the age of criminal responsibility and it is too late now to hope the school deal with it in-house.
He has been offered a caution, it is a pretty open and shut case and so he is better off accepting that than being prosecuted with a permanent stain on his record.

lilyaldrin Sat 01-Feb-14 22:54:27

I would definitely not accept a caution without seeking proper legal advice!

prh47bridge Sun 02-Feb-14 00:18:12

What do you expect legal advice would tell you? If he doesn't accept a caution he is gambling that the CPS will decide not to prosecute. There are no other options. A caution is much better than the alternative.

Of course, he has already had proper legal advice from the duty solicitor who is telling him that his best option in this situation is to accept the caution.

3l3phant Sun 02-Feb-14 07:17:05

You might want to find out what was actually meant by 'hacking' in this case. A mild breach (modifying one instance of a desktop image) of the terms of use of the school's computer network, to which he has legitimate access, is not the same as gaining unauthorised access to another system and causing damage. It may not even constitute a crime and you might be well advised to ask what actual law he has supposedly broken in order to 'earn' the caution.

There are a number of interests possibly contrary to those of your DS here. Firstly, whoever runs the school network will not want to look incompetent. Secondly, the police are also incentivised to make sure that as many 'crimes' as possible that are reported to them are closed with some kind of 'victory'. Both may well be trying to close this trivial case in a way that makes them look good without any regard to what actually happened.

Hacking is used in very emotive terms as a 'scare crime'. It can just be educational exploration or improvement of a system. (See for instance Steven Levy's bestseller 'Hackers, heroes of the computer revolution'.)

averyyoungkitten Sun 02-Feb-14 07:37:46

What do you expect legal advice would tell you? If he doesn't accept a caution he is gambling that the CPS will decide not to prosecute. There are no other options. A caution is much better than the alternative

I dont like duty solicitors. In my experience they are not unbiased and they are often not fully qualified. My neighbour was one such. She was actually a legal executive and before that a secretary in a legal firm. She had next to no qualifications in law.

So, what would I expect from legal advice from a criminal lawyer? I would want to know not just the options - I know those but rather how far reaching accepting a caution might be. If he went to court and pleaded not guilty - does he have any defence? Might the couyrt let him go? What are the statistics on getting off and are the consequences much worse than a caution?

It might even be that being convicted is no bigger issue than the caution frankly. I would want to know the consequencies of both LONG TERM and in more than just one way.

I know it is more than just a ticking off and that it will last a lifetime and could affect lots of things. When a child is so young, its a lifetime of regret not just a few years. It may impact on career - and you should know this now, not when someone cruelly tells you later. Even leaving the country may be affected - and you need to understand that.

I suspect that this has gone to far and the time to deal with it was at interview or when the school was deciding what to do - and now a young life is probably ruined..... and for what?

But knowing what the damage is is half the battle in deciding the way forward.

I once worked in a really "hard" school. There were career criminals
(even at 14) in there. In one case, that did get reported to the police, three relatively innocent kids took cautions or were sent to magistrates court, pleaded guilty and ended up with records. One old lag of a lad
(dad in prison, uncle in for life). the ring leader opted for court and for jury. He got off. The other kids have not done well. He is still ducking and diving - and getting away.

Now I am not saying that will happen here. But just get proper advice.

That said, I would make sure if my DC were in court the school got optimum publicity for this . After all, as someone else said, they dont send for the police for assult and many violent crimes, so why in this case? They deserve disrepute.

I always thought that it was the person pressing the charges ( ie the school) who could get them dropped and if the school said they didnt want to persue it, the police could do nothing - clearly I am wrong.

( I only thought the above because someone once asked me not to press charges against them so that they didnt have to be prosecuted. Different situation though, it was an assult)

fwiw, I think exclusion ( permanent) in this instance would have been a better option for the school and for the boy. Its more usual. I am guessing this DC is " the one" who the school will be making an expaly of because they decided on a zero tolerance approach after having too many problems earlier. But that hardly seems a fair way forward.

DrNick Sun 02-Feb-14 07:48:52

Are you saying that a court allows a legal secretary to stand up in court and defend someone. I think you might be confusing a duty for someone who gives thirty mins grr advice at a solicitors

averyyoungkitten Sun 02-Feb-14 08:01:44

I am saying DrNick,that my neighbour, a legal executive, is the person who the police call when someone askes for the "duty solcitor" when at the police station.

She is there at the interview and gives the "advice" ( often a caution) . She is not unbiased and doesnt always know what is best ( just what is easiest).

IF ( not often ) it gets to court, someone else gets called in - a proper solicitor and barrister if needed. Not her. But by then it may well be too late. Hence I say, you need a proper person to give advice, someone working in your interests. That doesnt always happen, especially if people are naive about the law.

averyyoungkitten Sun 02-Feb-14 08:04:00

Both the police, YOT and the firm which provided a duty solicitor during the police interview are nagging me to sign it

I am taking my view on what might be the case from this (above) in the OP.

tiggytape Sun 02-Feb-14 09:42:05

Not accepting the caution doesn't make it all go away though.
The option isn't a caution or nothing.
The option is a caution or potentially taking your chances in court.
The consequences of a caution for a person of this age are minimal.
The consequences of being successfully prosecuted are very serious. Only if you were very, very sure of not being found guilty would you risk it and since it is known that he did it, relying on it maybe not being a proper crime afterall, being thrown out of court or not reaching court sounds like a huge risk.

Mrscupcake23 Sun 02-Feb-14 10:13:52

My son was advised to plead guilty by a duty solicitor for something. He decided not too and it never got to court.

Mrscupcake23 Sun 02-Feb-14 10:15:18

He was offered a caution glad he didn't take it as he now has a clean record. I think duty solicitors are not always the best. Another opinion won't hurt.

paperlantern Sun 02-Feb-14 10:30:02

just because something is weak you should not take advantage of it, even i it is only to prove how vulnerable it is.

It is a very unpleasant attitude

I would be looking to accept the caution and ramming home the message that is coming with it.

not trying to see how my child could best get away with it

LadyMaryLikesCake Sun 02-Feb-14 10:53:13

'Duty solicitors' are, quite often, not solicitors. They are legal executives who have been on a course and have been accredited. There was a gent on my law degree who was police station accredited, meaning he could give advice in the police station, but he'd only just started his LLB so wasn't a qualified solicitor (nor did he have a degree in law).

I really do think you need to find out exactly what he's done and then go and see a qualified solicitor for some legal advice. Don't be too hasty in accepting a caution, it may not be the best route for him if it's something as mundane as changing a screen saver via an unsecure control panel.

ReallyTired Sun 02-Feb-14 13:19:49

What an overreaction. The child changed a setting and in my opinon it does not consitute criminal damage. Its not as if he printed off and distributed another child's IEP or deleted child protection information.

I think the IT manager was shown up to be an imcompetant and he got revenge by informing the police. The school should have locked down desktop settings with group policy. If they are stupid enough to give a pupil the rights to change the screen wall paper then what do the school expect.

I think you should get advice from a proper solititor who specialises in network security law and not take the caution. Changing a screen saver or wall paper because your school has given you the right to do so is hardly hacking the pentagon.

How old is your son? Is ignorance of the law a defense if a child has commited a crime on the basis that a child has dimmished responsiblity (on the basis of immaturity) for what is supposely a very sophisicated crime. Is it reasonable to expect a child to appreciated that changing a screen saver setting is actually crime. (Its not like if he has commited murder where it blatently obvious that a crime has been commited.)

The only thing to do is get specialised advice from the best solititor that money can buy.

LauraBridges Sun 02-Feb-14 13:35:11

You really must pay for him to see a very experienced solicitor in this area even if just for an hour of their time. Do not accept the caution. There may be all kinds of defences that can be used. As said above duty solicitors are whoever they can drum up who is prepared to work nights. They will not be Computer Misuse Act 1990 specialists.

Hulababy Sun 02-Feb-14 14:01:47

How old is your child?
What exactly did he do? How did he get into the system? Was in from home or school? There is a big difference between accessing the control panel from a school computer and infiltrating the network from an external computer and bypassing levels of passwords.

No system is entirely fool prof though. Just because he could get in he knows he shouldn't have. He may well have broken the law as detailed below and has therefore should accept some consequences.

Liken it to a break of trust and accessing a school building or office maybe? No building is entirely break-in proof. If a pupil decides to test the security by breaking in to the office and changing the photo on the desk - just to show the HT that his security is accessible - well it's still a crime and still punishable. Surely this is similar?

Fwiw secondary schools do get the police involved for physical assaults and other crimes. Often though it has to come from the victim. Not all families decide to prosecute. In this case the victim of the crime is school so they get to decide.

I would advise going to a solicitors and getting formal advice. But I certainly wouldn't be congratulating my child and telling him his ict skills are good. He committed an office and as a parent I'd be coming down ninnies with a to. Of bricks and making him realise he is not above the law and that his stupidity may have far reaching consequences and that he has no one to blame but himself.

If he had done it in a workplace - even at the same age, on work
Experience it a Saturday job for example - then he'd be looking at a disciplinary and legal action. School is no different.

aghteens Sun 02-Feb-14 14:02:10

Go to a qualified solicitor for some unbiased advice and make your son pay for it.

DrNick Sun 02-Feb-14 14:02:36

what picture did he change?

Hulababy Sun 02-Feb-14 14:03:12

Also search out the home school IT agreement you and he will have signed. Pretty much every secondary school has one or should have one.

DrNick Sun 02-Feb-14 14:05:02

bit hardly a legal doc

MillyMollyMama Sun 02-Feb-14 14:08:36

A young person set fire to my barn and destroyed it. He boasted about it on Facebook. A friend's son saw it, told us, and we reported the boast to the Police together with the name of the culprit. He went to the local grammar school with my friend's son. When the Police visited us, they asked if the barn was insured. It was. The Policeman put his head in his hands and asked me if I knew how much work was involved in taking a case like this (arson) to the Crown Court? It was a big problem apparently. Could he just go round and speak to the lad instead?

So.... The moral of the story is that, yes, OP, your son has been an idiot, but the a Police pick off who is easy/cost effective to prosecute. Your son is an easy target. Keeps the crime resolution figures up with little or no effort. Get a proper lawyer to check it out, but do not be surprised if they take it further. Sadly the local ticking off method only applies to arsonists!

Impatientismymiddlename Sun 02-Feb-14 14:11:03

She is there at the interview and gives the "advice" ( often a caution) . She is not unbiased and doesnt always know what is best ( just what is easiest).

My brother is a legal exec and his firm advise their clients (almost) never to accept a caution. A legal exec who advises most people to just accept a caution might not be working in the best interest of the client.
A caution will be recorded as a conviction and will be considered won't after a certain period of time, but enhanced crb checks show spent convictions as well as unspent convictions.
Makes me laugh that schools never phone the police over serious bullying but as soon as their computers security is exposed they are phoning the police.

Impatientismymiddlename Sun 02-Feb-14 14:11:35

Will be considered spent after a period of time ^

Tanith Sun 02-Feb-14 14:17:28

I used to work in the computer centre of a university many years ago. One of the IT students was caught hacking - similar thing, just to prove he could do it.
They suspended him and all but threw him out. He was barred from ever using the computer facilities again - we had to keep a look out for him. It effectively wrecked his degree.

I don't think some of you are taking this as seriously as the authorities almost certainly do, and have done for years.

SusanC5 Sun 02-Feb-14 14:17:30

Is your son over 18? You can only be cautioned if you are over 18. As a parent, you cannot sign a conditional caution. Only the offender who has admitted the offence can sign. I would get legal advice - not from the duty solicitor - this doesn't appear to be the correct way of dealing with a juvenile offender. IME, juveniles are dealt with by way of Reprimands, Warnings and Final Warnings.

DrNick Sun 02-Feb-14 14:18:35

arson is straight to crown court

caketinrosie Sun 02-Feb-14 14:23:20

Op you are getting some really dodgy legal advice on here from some desk top lawyers! A caution is not a conviction never has been never will be. Advice from a barrister or solicitor or a lawyer is advice from a solicitor. They are all solicitors they just took different routes to get there. Your son broke the law and has admitted it. Now you can go and spend a fortune getting advice but the facts will remain the same. The decision is sim

caketinrosie Sun 02-Feb-14 14:23:56

Simple. Do the right thing. (Damn phone)

Impatientismymiddlename Sun 02-Feb-14 14:28:31

Not technically a conviction, but not that different in reality.

Hulababy Sun 02-Feb-14 14:47:03

A solicitor, a barrister, a lawyer and a legal exec are NOT all the same and they are not all solicitors! A barrister and a solicitor are different professions and involve different qualifications, different experience as different roles.
A legal exec is not as highly qualified as a solicitor or a barrister generally and again their roles should be different.
A lawyer is a general term as includes anyone who works in the legal profession including those at very different levels.

morethanpotatoprints Sun 02-Feb-14 14:53:39

One of my ds1 HT had a caution because he had been rounded up with several other friends during a uni party, that got rowdy.
It never stopped him being a HT, I think many young people do such things.
he should accept the caution, or if you want to go down the route of second opinions etc, check how long he has to accept or decline before it is escalated.

WinterDrawsOff Sun 02-Feb-14 15:02:46

A caution is treated as a conviction. You have your fingerprints, photograph and DNA taken and your record appears on the Police National Computer (PNC).

cricketballs Sun 02-Feb-14 15:03:49

At last Tanith I thought I wad the lone voice on here so I gave up. Too many posters a're likening this to a prank.....he broke in and defaced..

Impatientismymiddlename Sun 02-Feb-14 15:08:12

I don't think the majority of posters are treating it as a prank; a lot of posters are, however, concerned about schools disproportionate application of punishment. Why are the police not called by schools for severe bullying which can result in severe loss of self esteem for the bullied persons and lead to self harm etc, but they don't hesitate to call the police when their computer system has been hacked?

LauraBridges Sun 02-Feb-14 15:13:26

I think hacking is very serious indeed in some cases. However there are technical requirements under the Computer Misuse Act 1990 that have to be shown before someone in guilty and just to accept a caution with all the adverse consequences which go with that is not something to do without advice from yes a "solicitor". Solicitor is a specialist legal word and you can only call yourself that if you are a solicitor. It is not a general word for all kinds of people who practise law.

This sentence is correct.
"A solicitor, a barrister, a lawyer and a legal exec are NOT all the same and they are not all solicitors! A barrister and a solicitor are different professions and involve different qualifications, different experience as different roles."

However there are some very good barristers who specialise in computer crime (and good solicitor firms and there might indeed be a legal executive out there who spends their life doing computer crime and IT work). The point being made is pay for an hour's advice with one of those people, specialists in computer crime and the 1990 Act.

AnotherSeatOnTheOutrageBus Sun 02-Feb-14 15:48:39

I can't believe what some people on this thread are saying.

How many of you know how to change a desktop background? Surely almost everyone has at some point? This is not "hacking" in any way. Nor is it "breaking in". It's certainly not remotely comparable to any form of vandalism or defacement. It's changing a desktop background - changing a setting that the system is designed to allow you to change - about as harmful as saying hello and doing about as much permanent damage. The OP's son is probably right to say his user permissions shouldn't permit it, and it was undoubtedly a daft way to point it out, but that doesn't make it wrong and I'm astonished that anyone able to boot up and log into Mumsnet can't tell the difference between this and "vandalism".

(It's rather dubious as to whether it would really qualify as a crime under the Computer Misuse Act. It's neither accessing secured data nor defeating security measures to make the system perform an unauthorised function. Computer misuse law is an ass even by legal standards and urgently needs rewriting, so this is unfortunately not a safe bet in court, but it's fairly clear this isn't what the law has in mind here.)

The school are outrageous for harassing the OP's son in this way. I'd take my kids straight out of such an authoritarian, incompetent institution (sadly fairly normal for school IT, who seem on average to have fewer sysadmin skills than a dead flea and over-ready to get the jackboots out rather than admit it). I'm a bit shocked, too, that the police would waste time and public money on this - they may be obliged to once the school claims to have "been hacked"?

jollygoose Sun 02-Feb-14 15:52:42

crikey I ould be rather proud of his it abilities

Impatientismymiddlename Sun 02-Feb-14 15:55:03

I agree with jellygoose^^

pyrrah Sun 02-Feb-14 16:15:41

Definitely get other opinions before you sign anything.

How old is the child? I think it's a different ball game if the child is 17 or 12.

My sister and a friend hacked into their school computer aged 11 and printed off the exam papers for that term and sold them to class-mates.

They got a ticking off and a detention from the school - and my parents were told that she obviously had a bright future in IT. This was back in the 1980's though.

flatmum Sun 02-Feb-14 16:31:50

I would also be quite proud and make sure he seriously considers computer science as a degree. I work in IT and this kind of thing really pisses me off. Most schools have only a rudimentary understanding of IT and Internet security, employ barely competent (ie cheap) IT staff that leave their systems wide open, and then complain when tech savvy kids (immature and not so aware of consequences by definition) give into understandabe natural curiosity to tinker and mess about. It's not fair.

ReallyTired Sun 02-Feb-14 17:07:47

" used to work in the computer centre of a university many years ago. One of the IT students was caught hacking - similar thing, just to prove he could do it.
They suspended him and all but threw him out. He was barred from ever using the computer facilities again - we had to keep a look out for him. It effectively wrecked his degree.

There is a world of difference between a university student (who is in theory and adult) and CHILD hacking a system.

I think that a young teenager changing the wall paper of one computer is childish prank rather than a crime. It is the kind of behaviour to expected in the school. I used to work in a school where the kids used to diliberately turn down the loudspeaker settings to annoy the teachers or play with the monitor settings. (Not in the control panel!)

If he managed to change the wallpaper of an entire network then that is a little more serious. I agree there is a massive difference between logging in as a pupil, accessing the control panel because it has not been locked down and using a piece of software like Back Orfice to hack the server.

FootieOnTheTelly Sun 02-Feb-14 18:29:01

OP was desperately looking for advice but has not come back to the thread with any more details. sad

I hope it's not a post 'n run jobby. sad sad sad

Hulababy Sun 02-Feb-14 19:58:34

OP hasn't returned and it is a first post under this name at least - so no idea how old the son is. He could be a preteen, a young teen, or even an older over 16y teen. It will make a big difference depending on the age of the son. An older teen of 16, 17y etc is old enough to be in the world of work.

prh47bridge Sun 02-Feb-14 20:02:28

but enhanced crb checks show spent convictions as well as unspent convictions

To repeat what I have already said, a caution would disappear from CRB/DBS checks after 2 years. The courts have forced the government to introduce rules filtering most offences from enhanced CRB/DBS checks after a number of years.

You can only be cautioned if you are over 18

Rubbish. Since 2012 the minimum age for cautions is 10. See the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 s135.

How many of you know how to change a desktop background

I do. You (and others) are focussing on the wrong issue. This is not a question of criminal damage or similar. The issue is unauthorised access to a computer which is an offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990. What he did when he was there is irrelevant. The crime is the fact he was there at all.

rabbitstew Sun 02-Feb-14 21:02:56

I might know how to change the background on a desktop to which I was logged in. I wouldn't know how to change the background to all the desktops in a school simultaneously - say, to a pornographic picture, for example. grin

Impatientismymiddlename Sun 02-Feb-14 22:37:28

To repeat what I have already said, a caution would disappear from CRB/DBS checks after 2 years. The courts have forced the government to introduce rules filtering most offences from enhanced CRB/DBS checks after a number of years.

That is not correct. It will show on an enhanced crb for the purposes of working with vulnerable people, because it is relevant information. Go and check the facts. The police would be negligent in their duties to protect vulnerable persons if they allowed such info to lapse. Accepting a caution is acknowledging guilt.

Tanith Sun 02-Feb-14 23:27:20

It depends on how old this CHILD is, ReallyTired, and exactly what he did. The Op hasn't elaborated. In another year, the Op's son might well be old enough for university, where he will be thrown out for doing this.

Silly little idiots messing around to show off to their mates can do a lot of damage. It's to deter them as much as to punish them that the authorities take it so seriously.
Arguing that other serious incidents are dealt with too leniently is not a reason to relax the attitude towards hacking.

prh47bridge Sun 02-Feb-14 23:28:01

Speaking as someone who is involved in child protection I suggest you take your own advice and check the facts. To help you get it right, you can find the facts here.

It used to be the case that any conviction or caution remained on an enhanced DBS check forever. That changed from 29th May 2013 as a result of a decision by the courts that continuing to include all convictions, cautions, etc. was a violation of the subject's human rights. Records are now filtered so that most cautions and convictions are removed after a certain time. However, certain offences are never removed. You can find the detailed rules and the list of offences that are never filtered by following the link above.

prh47bridge Sun 02-Feb-14 23:29:08

Sorry - that last post was directed at Impatientismymiddlename

KatieChooChoo Sun 02-Feb-14 23:51:19

This really depends how old he is. My friends son is 8 years and is an absolute whizz kid with IT. Hes wrote a programme (all goes over my head).
Im sure he'll be fully aware at 8 years old that hacking is wrong.

Not a nice situation for a parent but if your son is bright enough to hack into a computer system he must be intelligent enough to know its wrong!

PigletJohn Mon 03-Feb-14 00:17:37

I am a bit disappointed that so many people seem to think it is an achievement which should be rewarded by congratulations or a job offer.

Most computer systems are extremely insecure and it doesn't take much to get in with a guessed password.

If he had broken into the school by opening a door lock with a simple and inexpensive home-made tool, would you be suggesting he should get a job in Burglary Prevention? I can run classes if you like. Ten minutes would be more than enough.

gaba Mon 03-Feb-14 00:22:28

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

prh47bridge Mon 03-Feb-14 00:44:22

No chance whatsoever of getting the school prosecuted for wasting police time. I doubt you would even get a crime reference number. Like it or not, the OP's son has committed a criminal offence. The school is within its rights to report this.

A caution would not prevent a US Disneyland visit. It would have to be declared to the US authorities but it would not result in entry being refused.

And in UK terms it is a caution is on his criminal record for life but that will only be relevant if he gets into trouble with the police in future. Two years after the caution it will stop appearing on any DBS checks so no-one other than the police and courts will be aware of it.

prh47bridge Mon 03-Feb-14 00:53:39

Just to add, you can only waste police time if you knowingly make a false report. The school has not done so. It has made a true report. Any attempt to sue it (or any of the teachers) for wasting police time would automatically fail.

BadgerB Mon 03-Feb-14 06:13:52

Go gaba! - Ridiculous to equate this with criminal damage or breaking and entering. Obviously the IT teacher is not as skilled as OP's son and it's embarrassing to him/her.

differentnameforthis Mon 03-Feb-14 06:34:08

yes wrong but not hugely damaging or anything over than a teenager who doesn't wait to think of the consequences of his behaviour

Could be hugely damaging if he accessed sensitive data, inc student data & previous exam results, staff details, etc. I know that in this case he didn't, I don't buy the excuse that he was trying to show how easy it was to gain access. He could have just raised it with the IT dept.

What if he was trying to see how easy it was, as he was thinking of trying to gain access to other info? No one knows expect him, but no, I don't agree that is isn't hugely damaging.

I would give him a Duke of Edinburh Award and a job managing computer systems and training. You do know how damaging hacking can be, don't you?

gaba Mon 03-Feb-14 06:42:15

OK PH, so this kid changes the desktop picture on a school computer, and because it is embarrassing to the inept IT teacher, the kid gets hassle from the cops.

This is the sort of thing that makes me sick of this country.

Some busy-body imbecile teacher, getting personal with a child, just charming. Then a kid getting a criminal record because of it.

What the kid has learned from all this.... Don't trust authority, you can't trust your teachers (probably already figured that one) the police are a disreputable bunch of jobsworths with no honor whatsoever... What else, ah yes, adults are just big children with petty gripes and insecurities.

BoneyBackJefferson Mon 03-Feb-14 06:47:13

"There is no excuse for this sort of disgusting behavior from teachers and schools."

There is no mention of teachers from the OP at all, in fact there is very little information to go on, yet once again its "disgusting behaviour" from teachers and schools.

You are aware that ALL of the SEN information, medical history, contact details, addresses etc. are kept on the same system?

I don't think posters are aware of how school computer systems have changed, or that its not as simple as changing the desktop picture on your pc.

BadgerB Mon 03-Feb-14 06:55:25

If the info now kept on school computers is so very personal and sensitive then the school is even more at fault for the insecurity of their system. But no, they expect the kids to think this through and not expose their shortcomings.

BoneyBackJefferson Mon 03-Feb-14 07:01:24

"If the info now kept on school computers is so very personal and sensitive then the school is even more at fault for the insecurity of their system"

No system is fully secure, and I would hazard a guess that the reason why the OP's son only changed the desktop was because that was as far as he could get.

gaba Mon 03-Feb-14 07:09:08

Its not the hackers that bother me, its the criminals keeping all the data on me and my family. The people that put all that information on the machines, are the real danger, not some kid who wants to have a look.

Just to add ...

All those who say you should 'dob in' your kids, I doubt they would do the same to theirs. What mother would sell out her own children?

BadgerB Mon 03-Feb-14 08:03:54

One of my sons worked in computer security/fraud detection and earned more than the rest of the family put together. Then he left to retrain as a teacher.. There's a potentially well paid career waiting for your son, OP.

rabbitstew Mon 03-Feb-14 08:04:49

I think hacking into a computer is every bit as bad as breaking into a house and spraying graffiti. Just as someone whose house has been broken into feels insecure, unsafe and worried about what else the odious vandal looked through and touched when they did it, so anyone whose personal information might have been on a computer system broken into, would worry. Just as breaking and entering into a house just to prove how easy it is, is unacceptable and showing a complete lack of empathy, so is hacking into someone else's computer. It is not acceptable to demonstrate peoples' vulnerabilities by making them feel scared and vulnerable.

Lagoonablue Mon 03-Feb-14 08:12:10

'Dob in'???? How old are you?

Yes I would report my kids for committing an offence actually. It would send quite the wrong message not to and they need to face up to the consequences of their actions.

Yes to seeking legal advice and check what they would be likely to charge him with, that will help you decide if to accept it or not.

gaba Mon 03-Feb-14 09:20:07

Ok so if there are only two options, it is simple.

1 Accept a caution and get a criminal record for life.

2 Don't accept and you will all but certainly never hear another word about it. But in the worst case scenario (child porn photos all over school website) he will get a criminal record... as #1 above.

tiggytape Mon 03-Feb-14 09:22:43

Yes, by all means seek legal advice as anyone else might if faced with this but I really don't get all the anger aimed at the school.

No system is 100% secure but lots contain very sensitive information. That is why the laws against accessing a system without permission exist - it isn't that hard to break in if you're determined bu that doesn't mean you should. It doesn't matter what you do once you've hacked in, hacking in is the crime.

This isn't because the I.T department being inept - very high tech places get hacked too and there are probably many kids with the ability to hack into a system if they chose to. But the point is that the law says they musn't and most don't. What he had done is wrong and an offence and he must have known both of these things but at best he was showing off or at worst he was having a crack at something more serious such as looking at personal details.

I can understand any parent being very upset that their child has done something stupid and landed themselves in trouble with the police. I can understand them worrying about the consequences but I cannot understand any parent blaming anyone else for it apart from the child

Whilst his parents will obviously want to minimise the effects for him as any parent would, I don't think telling him that a vindictive authoritarian state is to blame for his actions, his choices and his mistakes is going to help him either.

gaba Mon 03-Feb-14 09:28:31

There are kids out their stabbing each other, drugs, guns, robbing and rape.

Does anyone really think the police should be wasting time going after a kid who changed the background photo on a computer?

If I was a police man and got called to a school for this, I would for sure be making a couple of arrests. The Head and the other teacher involved would be going in the naughty suite for a few hours to cool off. Then I might 'let them off with a caution'.

PigletJohn Mon 03-Feb-14 09:32:55


just to check

what makes you think that he just "changed the background photo?"

can you tell me please what confidential or personal information he viewed? Or would I be right in thinking that you don't know?

this is very comparable to a person breaking into a home or office, rifling through the files, and painting graffiti on the walls. He would not be prosecuted for the graffiti in particular.

prh47bridge Mon 03-Feb-14 09:42:17

Gaba - Unauthorised access to a computer system is a criminal offence under the Computer Misuse Act. What he did or didn't do when he got there is irrelevant. He has committed a crime. If he does not accept the caution the CPS will look at this and realise it is a nailed on conviction. They may choose not to prosecute but that is a huge gamble for the OP's son.

And if you had been the police officer called to the school and had behaved as you describe you would have been disciplined and may have faced prosecution for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment. The teachers have not committed any crime. It is never a crime to report that an offence has been committed unless you know that your report is false.

PatriciaHolm Mon 03-Feb-14 09:46:00

Given the OP has conspicuously failed to return or provide any details, all this speculation about "changing a picture" is useless.

It could be an 10 year old who took advantage of a teacher popping to the toilet to jump on a classroom PC and change the back ground picture; it could be a 17 year old who spent hours deliberately hacking into a secondary school online homework system to put up a pornographic picture of a classmate for all to see. We have no idea, and i bet people's advice would be very different in the two scenarios.

Impatientismymiddlename Mon 03-Feb-14 09:58:08

Speaking as someone who is involved in child protection I suggest you take your own advice and check the facts. To help you get it right, you can find the facts here.

The police can include all relevant information to potential employers - they do not have to exclude cautions if somebody is applying to work with vulnerable people. When you check your facts make sure that you check the whole fact and not just the bit about general crb checks.

Impatientismymiddlename Mon 03-Feb-14 10:02:57

Oh and there really isn't any relevance to the fact that you work in child protection. I used to work in child protection myself but left the role due to getting sick of working with a bunch of numpties who couldn't protect any child effectively.

Impatientismymiddlename Mon 03-Feb-14 10:09:20

Just for clarification and because I really worry about people working in child protection who lack knowledge of basic checks which should be made for people who wish to work with vulnerable people, I have copied the following form NACRO. I'm sure as you work in child protection you will understand who NACRO are.

What sort of cautions need to be disclosed for DBS purposes?
Simple cautions (18+)
A simple caution is issued by a police officer, usually at a police station, to the individual where they accept responsibility for the offence. If you have received a police caution, you would have had your fingerprints and photograph taken (although this will also happen if you are simply arrested) and you will have signed a document accepting responsibility for the offence. You will not necessarily have been given a copy of your signed caution.

Conditional cautions (18+)
Conditional cautions are issued to adults for certain offences where there is sufficient evidence to charge them and they have admitted the offence. Suitable cases are referred to the Crown Prosecution Service for their agreement to use this disposal. A conditional caution is a caution with specified conditions attached which must be met by the offender.

Reprimands (under 18)
A reprimand is a formal verbal warning given by a police officer to a young person who admits they are guilty of a minor offence.

Final warning (under 18)
A final warning may be issued to a young person who has already received a reprimand, or where the level of offending is deemed higher and therefore a reprimand is inappropriate.

Other cautions or warnings that do not form part of an individual’s Police National Computer record and do not need to be disclosed:

Verbal/street warnings
Harassment warnings
Cannabis warnings
Cautions issued by authorities other than the police (e.g. local council)

prh47bridge Mon 03-Feb-14 12:26:56

Impatientismymiddlename - I know exactly who NACRO are. Try looking at the next question on the page from which you quoted:

As of 29th May 2013, the DBS introduced a filtering system. Please refer to our section on filtering for further information.

Then take a look here and you will see that NACRO agree completely with me. I quote:

On 29 May 2013, an amendment to the Police Act 1997 was implemented that allows certain minor offences to be removed or ‘filtered’ from the certificates. Offences that are eligible to be filtered no longer need to be disclosed for jobs that are eligible for standard or enhanced DBS checks. (my emphasis)

Is my caution/reprimand/final warning eligible for filtering?

If you have received a caution or cautions as an adult (18+), these will be eligible for filtering as long as:
1.the caution was not for an exempt offence
2.six years or more have elapsed since the caution/cautions were issued.

If you received a reprimand/reprimands or a final warning/warnings (under the age of 18), these will be eligible for filtering as long as:
1.the reprimand/final warning was not for an exempt offence
2.two years or more have elapsed since the reprimand/final warnings were issued

Before accusing others of not knowing what they are talking about you really should make sure that you know what you are talking about.

rabbitstew Mon 03-Feb-14 12:30:12

PatriciaHolm - it is patently obvious from the OP that the boy is not a 10-year old who changed his teacher's screensaver when she popped out of the room for 5 minutes. It explicitly says in the OP that he hacked into the school computer system, not that he hacked into a lone school computer. It's also a load of old rubbish the boy wanted to show the school how insecure its systems were - he wouldn't have known exactly how insecure they were BEFORE he tried to hack in. He therefore wanted to FIND OUT how insecure they were, by breaking the law.

Surely, if this boy has any interest in computers and hacking, he will have been aware of all the publicity over Gary McKinnon and the total sense of humour failure of the powers that be when it comes to hacking into computer systems???

I agree, however, that Animavillis should look into all the possible consequences of accepting or not accepting a caution for her ds - bearing in mind that he does appear to have freely admitted to the crime at police interview.

prh47bridge Mon 03-Feb-14 12:32:09

I used to work in child protection myself but left the role

Which is presumably why you aren't aware of the changes that were made to standard and enhanced checks last year following a ruling by the Court of Appeal that the legislation requiring disclosure of all convictions and cautions on enhanced checks was incompatible with the Human Rights Act.

This time last year you would have been absolutely correct. All convictions and cautions appeared on enhanced CRB checks for life. I advised that on various Mumsnet threads at that time. The rules have now changed.

Impatientismymiddlename Mon 03-Feb-14 13:45:46

Good job you work in child protection and not youth justice.

Impatientismymiddlename Mon 03-Feb-14 13:57:17


I have gone and checked these new changes and the police still have power to disclose information that they deem to be relevant, although the test for what is deemed relevant is now more rigorous previously. If a person has received a caution it could therefore be disclosed, so long as it meets the relevance 'test'.
As rabbit stew has pointed out the OPs son has already admitted guilt at the police station so the information could be disclosed at any point in the future if he chooses to work with vulnerable persons.
Please do not advise any children or families that you work with that accepting a caution will not affect their future. Accepting a caution is not an easy option to just make things go away. If a person believes that they are innocent then the only good advice is for them to have a trial and prive their innocence and ask for any information held on file to be deleted if their innocence is proven.

Their leaflet about the changes can be found on the link below. It is very clear about disclosure of relevant information, following the changes that you speak of.

flatmum Mon 03-Feb-14 14:03:27

out of interest - I have been and asked a couple of IT security guys at work (contractors, bill circa 1K per day) what was the first thing they hacked. Both said - school computer (one in the U.K, one in the U.S). So it seems the OPs son's biggest mistake was getting caught. Hopefully when all this has died down, he will be able, with a bit of maturity, to use his skills for good (or, at the very least, a good income).

PigletJohn Mon 03-Feb-14 14:39:10

if you had said

out of interest - I have been and asked a couple of IT hackers in prison

they would probably have started the same way.

flatmum Mon 03-Feb-14 14:46:26

I don't know any hackers in prison - all the ones I know are I.T contractors. Bet there are more of them now with good jobs in the City that there are in prison.

But you're probably right about them all starting the same way. Life's a lottery, I guess.

Even though you haven't come back OP, thanks for posting this. It has reminded me to ask my children's school for a copy of their computer usage policy. Not because I am worried (know) that their networks are insecure and susceptible to hacking by students, but more because I am worried that it is the only place where my son has access to the internet without it being properly locked down or secured. I would be far more worried about schoolchildren accessing inappropriate material from their school computers than being able to hack into them.

tiggytape Mon 03-Feb-14 15:02:31

Like all these things, computer policy will also rely on children not accessing things even if they find they can, not sharing passwords etc. They know it is against school policy to look up porn for example and, chances are, mostly they won't be able to but if they find a way around that or a site that isn't blocked, that doesn't mean it is O.K for them to break the rules.

If they put their minds to it, they could probably figure out how to break into the school after hours and move stuff around. Or take money without it being noticed from a teacher's bag. Or all sorts of other things. Just because there is a way to defeat security measures in place doesn't mean it is O.K to do so. Security measures are never 100% and the flip side of that is relying on people to also be honest and not try to break them. Or to break them and be punished. You cannot argue that anytime security is weak enough that a determined person can breach it is the fault of the security not the person breaking any rule or committing any crime.

prh47bridge Mon 03-Feb-14 15:37:32

police still have power to disclose information that they deem to be relevant

Since the Court of Appeal has already ruled that disclosure of filtered offences is a breach of the Human Rights Act the police would clearly be in breach of the HRA if they disclosed a filtered offence.

Please do not advise any children or families that you work with that accepting a caution will not affect their future

I have not said that. I have simply pointed out that posters who claim it will always appear on DBS checks are mistaken. And I agree that someone who believes they are innocent should not accept a caution. However that is not the case for the OP's son who has apparently admitted guilt.

ivykaty44 Mon 03-Feb-14 16:08:49

What exactly has the ops son admitted guilt to?

PatriciaHolm Mon 03-Feb-14 16:14:34

We have no idea, Ivy. OP dropped and ran. And so the speculation mounted...

BoneyBackJefferson Mon 03-Feb-14 18:28:38


What makes you think that there was a teacher involved?
The head would have reported to the police, and the hack may well have been traced by the internal ICT staff.

You seem to really have an issue with teachers.

reddidi Mon 03-Feb-14 18:29:26

Can I suggest a couple of name changes?

prh47bridge -> PatientBeyondBeliefIsMyMiddleName;

Impatientismymiddlename -> UnableToAdmitWhenImWrongIsMyMiddleName.

gaba Mon 03-Feb-14 18:50:39

Prh wrote 'The teachers have not committed any crime. '

Common sense says otherwise. The kid changed a setting on a school computer, and the police get called.... Ask 100% of the population and you will get the same simple answer. Get a life FFS.

This is clearly some petty issue by a teacher who is clearly a whole heap less mature than the teacher who got his panties up in a bunch, because one of his students is better than he is at computers.

For normal people this is the real crime PRH, not your made up one of 'hacking'.

Hulababy Mon 03-Feb-14 18:57:07

Actually, as the OP has not returned, we do not know the level of hacking involved.
We do know know if he has logged on as himself and managed toaccess the settings to change an image, or if he has hacked into the administratror account and changed settings that way. The latter is obviously, using common sense after all, a far greater issue.

The pupil will almost definitely know he has done wrong - the OP suggests this is the case. He has knowingly and willingly committed something with is not only against the school rules - all pupls usually sign a home school agreement with regards IT - but also one which is a criminal offence.

It will be the HT and/or Governors who will have sought to involve the police, not your stanard teacher or IT technician. It is highly unlikely to be done out of spite of jealousy of IT skills hmm I'm not sure what some ppeople really think goes on in your average school - but actually in almost all cases the staff are normal, law abiding, intelligent adults ith a fair amount of sanity remaining.

Whilst there will need to be a review of the e-safety and computer software, as something has gone wrong - remember that NO system is hack proof entirely. People have hacked into major US government systems - so a standard secondary system is not going to be 100% secure; its just not going to happen.

gaba Mon 03-Feb-14 18:58:24

To put it another way.....

Teacher feels inadequate because kids know more about computers than he does....

Teacher lets his immature insecurities get the better of him (butt hurt). He descends into paranoid confusion.

Calls the police as the red mist descends and takes over his twisted world of computer games and little children....

Do you not think that about summs it up PRH.... Or am I missing something?

Hulababy Mon 03-Feb-14 18:59:03

*made up crime of hacking"


Are you for real? I assume you do know how to read information given, and then apply it to the law as stated on a feew occasions on this thread?

Or are your the OP defiending your boy really? Or are you the boy involved, hacked into mum's MN account maybe?

PatriciaHolm Mon 03-Feb-14 19:04:52

Gaba has major teacher/LEA related issues. I think it's safe to say she has no legal knowledge.

Given the OP used the word "hacking", and has refrained from returning to explain, we can only assume that is a fair explanation of what occurred. However, given the OPs continued absence, we can only surmise.

BoneyBackJefferson Mon 03-Feb-14 20:30:42

"Prh wrote 'The teachers have not committed any crime. '
Common sense says otherwise. The kid changed a setting on a school computer, and the police get called...."

This shows that you do not know anything about the systems that schools run.

"Ask 100% of the population and you will get the same simple answer. Get a life FFS."

Apart from the percentage that posts here. So not 100%

"This is clearly some petty issue by a teacher who is clearly a whole heap less mature than the teacher who got his panties up in a bunch, because one of his students is better than he is at computers."

Again what teacher none mentioned in the OP, and "HE"?

"Teacher feels inadequate because kids know more about computers than he does....

Teacher lets his immature insecurities get the better of him (butt hurt). He descends into paranoid confusion.

Calls the police as the red mist descends and takes over his twisted world of computer games and little children...."

Again what teacher? He?
Are you the DS? you seem to know a lot about this?

cricketballs Mon 03-Feb-14 20:40:38

I wasn't going to rise, but ive not read such nonsense in a while so Gaba the truth is....

The teachers are not in control of the IT network
The teachers have no control of decisions made by the school
We have to teach about the Computer Misuse Act (so 14 year olds have more factual knowledge than yourself)

I state this as an ICT teacher (whose background is computing). We don't have any access to the network other than staff access, so we having nothing to do with security. In fact the majority of schools networks are managed by RM - they definitely would not take any form of hacking as a prank.

prh47bridge Tue 04-Feb-14 00:34:15

Common sense says otherwise

Do please tell us what crime the teachers have committed. And don't come up with "wasting police time" again. The teachers can only be guilty of that if they have knowingly made a false report to the police. They have reported that a pupil has hacked into their computers. According to the OP that is a true statement. The teachers are not committing any crime by reporting this to the police. However, the OP's son has clearly committed a crime under the Computer Misuse Act.

gaba Tue 04-Feb-14 07:39:06

Why not wasting police time?

If I dial 999 because someone has stolen the little dust cap off my tire valve, what do you suppose they will say. Do you think they will come and take fingerprints, or come and give me attitude and 'get me for something'?

If they have any sense they will look into those who are making the complaint and see if they have anything to hide. Cops can always find something.

One thing is for sure, a teacher will have more skeletons in their 'closet' than a school child.

rabbitstew Tue 04-Feb-14 07:48:33

It's a weird world where the dust cap off someone's tire valve is equated with a school computer system containing hundreds of peoples' personal information.

BadgerB Tue 04-Feb-14 08:19:40

Cricketballs - If 'RM' (whoever they are) are responsible for the security of schools' confidential information, they maybe they are the ones who should be in trouble?

tiggytape Tue 04-Feb-14 09:05:51

So if someone broke into the school and read the private files kept in the office, the person who locked the office door should get into trouble and not the person who broke in?

cricketballs Tue 04-Feb-14 09:18:10

I'm astonished that so many on this thread fail to understand that the op's Ds broke the law. No matter the security in place, no matter that he could do it, no matter that 'he only changed an image", no matter than he's a pupil and its the school network - he broke the law

ReallyTired Tue 04-Feb-14 09:25:46

In our LEA the county has guidelines when to involve the police in school boy hacking matters. I am surprised that the police is involved for just changing the image on a desktop. Prehaps the school is an academy without LEA guidence.

Children commit crimes all the time and its not always in the public interests to make it a criminal matter. I think with a school boy hacking the account is important to keep things in proportion.

"It's a weird world where the dust cap off someone's tire valve is equated with a school computer system containing hundreds of peoples' personal information."

Schools often have child protection or medical information about children. Misuse or unlawful editing of that information or that information getting into the wrong hands could literacy lead to the death of a child. In a large secondary school a teacher is not ever going to remember which child ourt of 1500 is allergic to peanuts. Often the SEN information is intensely personal and on a need to know basis.

RM or Research Machines is a company is Didcot that provides remote managements of lots of school networks. They provide software to make the management of huge networks far easier. With any network there is a balance between ease of maintaince and security. I don't think you can expect any network to be 100% water light against a determined hacker.

ReallyTired Tue 04-Feb-14 09:27:26

Children break laws all the time, and generally schools and police recongise that the criminal courts are not always the right way to deal with law breakers.

It is well known that children are immature and their moral compass is a work in progress. Young offenders are treated differently to adults who are over 21.

prh47bridge Tue 04-Feb-14 09:47:59

Why not wasting police time?

Because you can only be guilty of wasting police time if you knowingly make a false report. If you believe your report to be accurate you cannot be guilty. That is the law.

If you dial 999 to report that someone has stolen your dust cap you probably won't get much response and they may think you are a numpty but you won't be charged with wasting police time. And they certainly won't "come and give you attitude" unless they want to be disciplined.

In any event, you don't know that the school dialled 999. Far more likely that they made a report at the local police station.

Presumably, Gaba if I committed the 'made-up' crime of hacking, and hacked into your bank's servers, you wouldn't report it to the police?

As others have said, the boy committed a crime - and could have had access to highly sensitive information - SEN files, medical records etc - and given what children are taught in schools now, I am pretty damn sure he knew what he was doing was wrong.

If he was genuinely worried about the security of the school's IT system, he could have approached the IT teacher, and shared his concerns, and even offered to demonstrate - that would have been a responsible way to approach the problem.

"I broke in to demonstrate how insecure your security is" is bollocks. If a teenage criminal broke into a house, would we expect the owner to be grateful for the lesson in how insecure his house was, or would we expect him to want the criminal punished? Most would say the latter - though I am sure gaba would shake his hand, thank him for his help, and send him on his way.

I do think that cases like this would suit a system of restorative justice, where the offender has to perform community service (in this case, at the school), and then, if it was a first offence and the offender was under 18, perhaps no mark on their record. This would, I think, reflect the fact that a crime had been committed, and that some form of punishment was required, but that no major damage had been caused, and the offence had been a relatively minor one - so community service and no record could be a proportionate response.

I do think it is very unfair to blame the IT teacher, and to suggest he/she is acting out of hurt feelings - schools have rules, and when those are broken, a report is made, and the Senior Management Team will decide how to proceed. It would have been their decision to involve the police, not the IT teacher's.

ReallyTired Tue 04-Feb-14 11:23:55

Does every misdermeanour by a school child really have to be dealth with by the police. There is no doult that TECHNICALLY this boy commited a crime, but doodling on textbooks is in theory criminal damage and so is assault. I think prh47bridge would be shocked at some of the behaviour that a nice leafy comprehensive has to deal with. (A child in ds' class recently threw a chair across a classroom in a teenage tantrum. Thankfully no one was hurt. The child was suspended but there was no police involvment as far as I know.)

I feel the combination of a very young age for criminal responsiblity and schools adicating responsiblity for sorting unacceptable behaviour unnecessarily criminalises young people. Schools are in loco parentis and parents don't go down the police station everytime their breaks the law. (Ds aged 12 ate all the biscuits without permission! Should I report him to the police?) Marking out a child as a criminal at an early age does not decrease their chances of re offending.

Schools do have the power to punish children without having to restort to the courts. I feel that suspending a child for a period of two weeks would have sufficently emphasised the seriousness of hacking the school network. Ds's school punishes children by making them pick up litter at 8am on a Saturday morning as a form of community work without resorting to the courts. Just imagine the affect of a two week suspension followed by 3 months of 8am saturday morning detentions picking up litter in all weathers. Would a court of law really impose a tougher sentence?

Young people make mistakes and its wrong to scar them for life by giving them formal cautions or a criminal record.

PigletJohn Tue 04-Feb-14 11:37:30


Sadly none of us know quite what he did or what the circumstances were.

Quite likely not "every misdermeanour " does have to be to be dealt with by the police

tiggytape Tue 04-Feb-14 11:45:10

Schools' hands are tied over many such issues. Where we live, a chair throwing incident resulting in injury would automatically be a police matter as would hacking school computer files. Many schools and LAs have written policies on behaviour and safety and specify at what point the police will be called (also small amounts of drugs, any weapon etc)

For other things, fixed term exclusions can be used but are limited because they are heavily regulated and highly discouraged. They are never normally last longer than 5 days and cannot exceed 45 days over one whole year. Litter picking one Saturday morning would involve parental cooperation that the school cannot enforce easily let alone 3 months worth of it!

OP says her DS knew what he was doing was wrong and computer rules are something that are endlessly emphasised at school - I expect more children know the laws on hacking than adults in fact. Schools may be in loco parentis but that is for all their pupils not just one. They cannot ignore personal files being hacked (or children being assaulted or other serious incidents) just so that one child doesn't end up in trouble because of the way they have chosen to behave. They are responsible for the safety of every child not the choices of just one.

prh47bridge Tue 04-Feb-14 13:05:48

I think prh47bridge would be shocked at some of the behaviour that a nice leafy comprehensive has to deal with

Believe me I wouldn't. I've seen it myself.

As PigletJohn says, we only have minimal details for this case. All we know for sure is that the school viewed it as sufficiently serious to refer it to the police, who in turn think it is worthy of a caution.

Would a court of law really impose a tougher sentence?

Unauthorised access to computer material carries a maximum sentence of 12 months or a fine of up to £5,000 assuming the case is heard by magistrates - higher penalties apply in the Crown Court. Sentences are rarely that high. If appropriate the courts could go for a lesser punishment such as an ASBO. With the limited details available it is impossible to guess what level the courts would choose.

You mention criminal damage. For comparison, the maximum penalty for criminal damage of the kind you mention is a fine of £1,000. For a first offence the starting point is a fine of £500. You may not agree but the law regards the son's actions as more serious than low level criminal damage such as scribbling in a textbook.

ReallyTired Tue 04-Feb-14 17:18:03

"Unauthorised access to computer material carries a maximum sentence of 12 months or a fine of up to £5,000 assuming the case is heard by magistrates - higher penalties apply in the Crown Court."

Those kind of sentences are for ADULT sophicated hackers who dileberately wreck systems or commit internet fraud. I think the OP son is a silly teenage boy rather than a mastermind criminal. Giving a child a fine only punishes the parents.

Yes, this child (who I assume is under 18) has POSSIBLY committed an offense. I feel saddened that this offense has been dealt with by the criminal justice system rather than a different way. Our age of criminal responsiblity is incredibly low compared with the rest of the world. In many countries a child who hacked a major computer system and actually behaved in a malicous way would not be facing criminal proceedings as if they were an adult. In fact there are countries which would treat child who has commited murder less harshly.

If a child has supportive parents then surely there are better ways of getting him on the straight and narrow than the criminal justice system. A child simply does not the mental capacity of an adult to understand consequences of their actions.

If my child was in this mess I would get the best legal advice possible from a solitor who specialises in Computer law and representing CHILDREN.

This is a petty crime in the big scheme of life. Lets keep it in proportion. Most of us made silly mistakes of one sort or another. I hope a judge would be more understanding than some people on this thread.

PatriciaHolm Tue 04-Feb-14 17:21:37

We still have absolutely no idea what actually happened, or how old the child was. Until the OP deigns to return (or the article they are writing appears in The Daily Mail...) all else is speculation.

Hulababy Tue 04-Feb-14 18:08:15

In the past I have worked as a teacher in secondary schools for several years, including one in special measures. Behaviour was terrible. Physical assualts on other pupils and staff were not rare. I, myself, was physical hurt - deliberately - when a child hit my heavily pregnant stomach with a chair.

I have also worked in a male prison housing up to ct A and restricted Young ffenders and cat C adult offenders - including some very violent and aggressive men, from aged 17y upwards - in for all manner of crimes inc murder, rape, peadophilia, etc.

I am not some sheltered middle-class hidden way from real life adult. However, I still believe that if this child ha committed a crime, as well as a breach f trust, then he should be dealt with appropriately. Without the OP being here to tell us ore regarding the son's age, what he actually did and didn't do, ow he went about it, if it is a first offence, etc we don't really know what is appropriate. If the school feel that reporting it to the police i appropriate then chances re it is more than loggig in and changing a n image via the control panel - therefore, he may well have committed a known crime, deliberately and should therefore be accountable - and face up tp the consequences of his chosen actions.

AgaPanthers Tue 04-Feb-14 18:18:50

Why is this thread up to 167 messages when OP can't be bothered to add more info?

BoneyBackJefferson Tue 04-Feb-14 18:24:46


I'm curious to find out what skeletons gaba's fictious teacher has.,

prh47bridge Tue 04-Feb-14 23:17:56

Those kind of sentences are for ADULT sophicated hackers who dileberately wreck systems or commit internet fraud

No, those are the maximum sentences for hackers of any age (provided they are over the age of criminal responsibility) who gain unauthorised access to computer material. If they deliberately wreck systems or commit internet fraud the maximum penalties are considerably higher. And I did point out that it is very rare for someone to receive the maximum sentence. To receive the maximum there would need to be aggravating factors such as accessing sensitive and/or confidential information or causing significant distress.

Yes, this child (who I assume is under 18) has POSSIBLY committed an offense

No possibly about it. According to the OP he has gained unauthorised access to the school's computer system. That is an offense under the Computer Misuse Act 1990 s1.

This is a petty crime in the big scheme of life

You need to convince politicians of that. The fact they significantly increased the maximum penalties in the Computer Misuse Act suggests that they don't agree with you.

gaba Tue 04-Feb-14 23:32:29

The only way a computer could have been misused in a way that required police involvement, is if he had hit another kid with it.

If the school computers have so much sensitive information on them, or they can be used to launch missiles or whatever, then they shouldn't have let the kids play with them.

What next, give them guns and wonder why someone gets shot?

PatriciaHolm Wed 05-Feb-14 00:12:31

The computer you are on right now Gaba could, in the right hands, be used to hack into a large amount of computer systems. You've heard of the internet, right? Being connected to the web means there is the possibility for your PC to hack into a number of systems, and for many people to hack into your PC.
In which case your PC should be removed from you, as it's possible you could do all sorts of damage. And not just from the ignorance of the operator. You've essentially just suggested that no school child ever be allowed to access the internet.

Anyway. OP is off doing something far more interesting, which would suggest the original scenario might just be a pile of bollocks anyway....

gaba Wed 05-Feb-14 07:28:54

"In which case your PC should be removed from you, as it's possible you could do all sorts of damage. And not just from the ignorance of the operator. You've essentially just suggested that no school child ever be allowed to access the internet."

The internet and computers are scary to many of the older generation, but it ia only a problem when you connect the wrong things to it, like a computer with sensitive information or a Trident submarine.

As for the last point, I'd say that was spot on.

Hulababy Wed 05-Feb-14 07:40:32

No school child allowed access to the Internet? Seriously GABA?!

How ridiculous! How about we allow gradual access from very young teaching safe sensible use from the start? Then we will have competent and confident online users!

You do know that many school applications and activities are online these days yes?

Hulababy Wed 05-Feb-14 07:42:50

Do you serious think schools don't need to have sensitive information stored on hem?

Names, addresses, medical details, progress records ... Could go on!

Are you really so badly clued up as to what information systems are and how they are used!?!

prh47bridge Wed 05-Feb-14 09:32:27

If the school computers have so much sensitive information on them... then they shouldn't have let the kids play with them

The school will not allow pupils to play with computers with sensitive information on them. However, they will have sensitive information on some computers which will be on the same network as those used by pupils. There will be security in place to prevent pupils accessing this information. The OP's comments and fact the police are involved in this case and want to caution the pupil suggests that he hacked his way past this security.

PigletJohn Wed 05-Feb-14 09:42:15

Before computers, data would have been kept in notebooks, cupboards and filing cabinets.

If a youngster forced the lock on the school secretary's office, and broke into the filing cabinet to look at the "who's got nits" or "whose dad is in prison for sexual abuse" folders, and scrawled funny faces or willies on the papers, maybe in the old days the police would not have been involved.

ivykaty44 Wed 05-Feb-14 16:48:57

But they would now due to data protection laws if the DC broke into filing cabinets and looked through private data as it is a breach. It would also look at the school and what measures they had in place to protect the data

Data protection laws are fairly new as are computers

PigletJohn Wed 05-Feb-14 17:02:23

in the old days, I actually think the youngster would have been expelled, and/or caned, and/or sent to Borstal, depending on the social standing of the school and the parents.

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