New law helps UK police tackle identity crime

UK policeNew legislation that will boost powers to tackle counterfeit documents has been adopted in the UK.

The Specialist Printing Equipment and Materials (Offences) Act 2015 was passed by Royal Assent on March 26 and creates an offence to supply these materials for use in criminal purposes, such as the creation of fake identity, travel or entry documents or bank cards.

The law - which covers both equipment and consumables - becomes effective in England and Wales on May 27 and is designed to make it easier to bring those engaged in this type of illegal activity to justice.

The bill was tabled in recognition of the findings of a Metropolitan Police Service initiative - called Project Genesius - which found that the police find it difficult to prosecute those who knowingly supply this equipment to criminals, because of the absence of a targeted offence.

Identity fraud was estimated to cost individual UK adults £3.3bn ($4.9bn) during 2012. False documents are a key enabler of this crime, allowing organised criminals to escape monitoring mechanisms and maintain the profits from their activity.

"Criminals require specialist printing equipment to make false documents such as passports, driving licences and credit cards," say the explanatory notes accompanying the new law.

While the possession and use of such false documents is illegal, had previously been no specific offence of supplying such equipment to criminals.

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