A 20-YEAR-OLD man who launched a revenge cyber-attack on Cheshire Police website has been jailed.

Liam Reece Watts, previously of Grange Avenue in Latchford, appeared at Chester Crown Court today, Monday after previously pleading guilty to two counts of unauthorised acts with intent to impair operation of or prevent / hinder access to a computer.

The 20-year-old, of Stratford Road, Chorley, carried out two distributed denial of service attacks on the Greater Manchester Police and Cheshire Constabulary websites.

During both attacks, which occurred on 22 August 2018 and 22 March 2019 respectively, Watts posted messages on social media in which he admitted responsibility.

Christopher Taylor, prosecuting, told the court how just eight days after the Manchester Arena attack in 2017, Watts made a bomb hoax call to security at town centre apartments on Mersey Street claiming that an explosive device had been left in the building.

He was jailed for eight months for the offence.

In revenge for this conviction, Watts used specialist software to overload Cheshire Police website, causing it to malfunction and rendering it inaccessible to the public for a whole weekend.

The court heard how he taunted officers on Twitter about the 'pleasure' he had at being able to bring the sites down.

The attack on the Cheshire police website also impacted on the Cheshire Police and Crime Commissioners website and while the impact on GMP's website was 'minimal' Cheshire Police reported seeing 'zero public access' when the website would usually get between 30,000 and 40,000 visitors daily.

Judge Patrick Thompson called the acts 'attacks on the heart of society'.

He said: "Many thousands of people could not use the websites to report crimes, these were very serious attacks with disastrous consequences.

"You said this was all a bit of fun and a laugh.

"These were attacks on the heart of society and on law and order in this country."

The court was told of Watts' previous convictions which included hacking his college computer system in 2015, the 2017 bomb hoax and his part in a robbery at a small Warrington store.

Patrick Williamson, defending, argued that there had been no financial reward and no data had been leaked to a third party as a result of the hacks.

He told the court how Watts, who suffers with ADHD, had been 'particularly unwell mentally' at the time of the GMP attack.

Watts was sentenced to 16 months in a youth detention centre.

Detective sergeant Chris Maddocks, of the Cheshire Constabulary Cyber Crime Unit, said: “Watts is an immature individual who deprived the people of Cheshire and Greater Manchester of their access to a public service by taking down Police websites. While sitting behind his computer screen he clearly felt safe enough to commit a serious offence under Computer Misuse Act offences.

“While attacking police websites may not be seen as a serious offence, the impact of Watts’s actions should not be underestimated.

“As a result of the two DDoS attacks, he rendered the websites inaccessible, meaning that thousands of people were unable to access the sites to view vital information, seek updates on the progress of ongoing investigations, report minor crimes or contact local officers.

“I hope that Watts' conviction will act as a warning to anyone who would engage in this type of behaviour online. This shows how seriously both police and the courts treat crimes of this nature.

“I would also like to reassure the public that at no point was Watts able to view any confidential information, nor was he able to access any police systems. Both of the sites are provided on standalone platforms and all of the information stored on them is accessible to public.”