The UK is awash with e-crime, so which heinous offence do the police get credit for prosecuting? Broadband theft via Wi-Fi. You can almost smell the tax money burning from here.

News of man arrested in London for allegedly helping himself to his neighbour’s Wi-Fi and broadband link without permission. Apparently, he was even spied sitting on a garden wall to get better reception for his criminal activities. (This happened before in 2005, when a man was fined for much the same crime.)

"This arrest should act as a warning to anyone who thinks it is acceptable to illegally use other people's broadband connections," detective constable Mark Roberts of the Metropolitan Police was quoted as saying reaching hitherto unreached levels of empty pomposity. "Computer users need to be aware that this is unlawful and police will investigate any violation we become aware of."

Drivel. The UK police do not as a policy investigate “any violation” at all. They investigate the ones they reckon they can actually solve. Only this year, it was announced by the Government that henceforth e-crimes such as credit card fraud (including online fraud) would be reportable *only* to the card issuers. Those are e-crimes, but you are not even allowed to report them to the police. The reason? The local police don’t have an earthly clue as to how to solve such crimes, and don’t want them on the books not being solved.

There is some kind of law of triviality at work here. The cops can’t solve the serious electronic crimes because they have neither the expertise nor investment to do so, so they have a policy of making an example of the small ones. The result is an inexorable criminalisation of people guilty of the sort of minor offences that would once have meant a short but effective ticking off.

There are people only too willing to collude with this misconceived stupidity, taking offence at the merest slight. Worried somebody might be trying to poll your mobile phone using Bluetooth? Convinced your neighbour might be logging in to your broadband Wi-Fi router because he/she doesn’t know one router from another? Somebody in a passing car stared for rather too long at your expensive Sat-Nav? Call the police so they can spend time and money apprehending the miscreant.

In fact, the Wi-Fi piggybacking victim should be thanking him. It obviously means it wasn’t properly secured in the first place, and was therefore prey to all sorts of nefarious misuse, all of which would have proved much more serious had it been exploited by professional criminals. But had that happened, ironically, the victim would have received the cold shoulder from the police. Thank God it wasn’t serious. Yes, we can send out the police chaps, it’s only broadband theft.

Anyone for a spot of prison building? Estimate of potential occupiers in UK: 60 million.