ClimateGate inquiry 'did not identify any suspects'

A police inquiry into the "ClimateGate" affair did not identify any suspects and cost more than £84,000 in expenses and overtime, police have said.

Norfolk Police announced on Tuesday they had stopped a probe into the theft of emails from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

They have now revealed the "complex" inquiry spread to "most continents", but has not identified a suspect.

Under law, police have until November to bring criminal proceedings.

Thousands of emails and other documents were obtained from a backup server at the Climate Research Unit (CRU) in November 2009 after a hacker downloaded a file containing passwords.

'False trail'

The data was then released on the web, shortly before the UN climate summit in Copenhagen, where governments were due to make a new global agreement to tackle global warming.

Under the Computer Misuse Act 1990, police had a three-year time limit in which to investigate the offence.

Senior investigating officer Det Ch Supt Julian Gregory said, regardless of this legislation, police would have ended the investigation because they had no "real prospect of finding the culprit".

Police said the theft was "sophisticated and orchestrated" and the offender had used a method common in unlawful activity of creating a false trail and using proxy servers throughout the world.

Det Ch Supt Gregory said officers had varying degrees of co-operation from other countries, none of which he would name.

He said there was no evidence the offence was committed by a government, an individual or an organisation with commercial interests.

'Appalling trauma'

Police said they could not isolate the staffing costs, but from December 2009 to March 2012, the cost for overtime and expenses was £84,871.

When asked if the process had been a waste of police time, Det Ch Supt Gregory disagreed.

"This appears to have been done with the intention of influencing the global debate on climate change and ultimately that effects us all," he said.

"To not have done the best we could on this investigation would have been neglect.

"By any investigation standards around the country it's probably quite unique, in terms of the nature of the material obtained, the apparent purpose behind it and the overall circumstances.

"We always set out with the objective of detecting the crime, so from a personal level it's very disappointing, but I do take solace from the fact that we have a clear idea of what took place."

Prof Edward Acton, the university's vice-chancellor, said the misinformation did real harm to public perceptions about the dangers of climate change.

The university's computer systems "would never be Fort Knox" but were more protected since the offence, he said.

"It was an appalling trauma for those in the storm but they sure have come through," he added.

No-one at the university was implicated in the offence.

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