Police announced yesterday (18 July 2012) that they have closed the investigation into the theft of emails which began the Climategate scandal at UEA in November 2009. No criminal proceedings will be followed, with the breach being described by the Norfolk Constabulary Major Investigation Team as a “sophisticated and carefully orchestrated attack on the CRU’s [Climate Research Unit’s] data files, carried out remotely via the internet.”
Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Superintendent Julian Gregory, said: “Despite detailed and comprehensive enquiries, supported by experts in this field, the complex nature of this investigation means that we do not have a realistic prospect of identifying the offender or offenders and launching criminal proceedings within the time constraints imposed by law.
“The international dimension of investigating the World Wide Web especially has proved extremely challenging … There is no evidence to suggest that anyone working at or associated with the University of East Anglia was involved in the crime.”
In response to the case’s closure, UEA vice-chancellor Professor Edward Acton said: “We are naturally disappointed that those responsible for this crime have not been caught and brought to justice. We are very grateful to Norfolk Constabulary for their sustained effort over the last two-and-a-half years, and appreciate the difficulty of devoting continued resources to such a complex international investigation. Clearly the perpetrators were highly sophisticated and covered their tracks extremely carefully.
“The misinformation and conspiracy theories circulating following the publication of the stolen emails – including the theory that the hacker was a disgruntled UEA employee – did real harm to public perceptions about the dangers of climate change. The results of the independent inquiries and recent scientific studies have vindicated our scientists, who have returned to their important task of providing the best possible scientific information on this globally critical issue.”
Meanwhile, Professor Phil Jones, Research Director of the CRU, commented: “I would like to thank the police for their work on this difficult investigation and also for the personal support they offered me. I am obviously disappointed that no-one has been prosecuted for this crime but hope today’s announcement will draw a line under the stressful events of the last two and half years. My colleagues and I remain committed to the research CRU undertakes to illuminate the globally important issue of climate change.”
The investigation, “Operation Cabin”, focused on the unauthorised access of material, an offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990. However, there is a three-year limit to proceedings after the original offence, meaning that Norfolk Constabulary, in consultation with The Met, were forced to close the case, with the possibility of finding the perpetrator deemed unrealistic.
Independent inquiries into the Climategate emails did not find any evidence of wrongdoing by the CRU scientists.