London Police Bust Man for "Stealing" Wi-Fi

Police officers in London arrested a 39-year-old man using his laptop to access someone else's wireless Internet connection on Tuesday.

His actions could potentially breach the Computer Misuse Act and the Communications Act, according to a Metropolitan Police Service statement. A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police confirmed the arrest on Thursday.

Two police community support officers spotted the man using the computer as he sat on a garden wall in the West London suburb of Chiswick. When they questioned him, he admitted using an unsecured Wi-Fi connection. Support officers do not have the same powers as regular police officers, and so they had to wait for other officers to arrest him. British Police forces use support officers to reassure the public and tackle antisocial behavior; they spend most of their time on foot patrol.

The man was later released on bail, and must return to the police station in Chiswick on Oct. 11.

Dishonestly obtaining electronic communication services is an offense under Section 125 of the U.K. 2003 Communications Act, while unauthorized access to computer material is a summary offense under Section 1 of the 1990 Computer Misuse Act.

It's not the first time someone has been arrested or prosecuted for such an offense, the spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said. However, neither offense is considered sufficiently serious for statistical analysis, so he could not say how many such arrests had been made. Tellingly, the spokesman could not recall any successful convictions for illegally using broadband Internet connections.

In July, local media reported that West Mercia Police had cautioned, but not arrested, two people in separate incidents in Redditch, England, for illegally using private Wi-Fi networks, but staff there could not say whether this was part of a concerted campaign against Wi-Fi thieves.

Officials at the Crown Prosecution Service and the Home Office also said they did not track such offenses separately.

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