An investigation into the hacking of emails at the University of East Anglia has been closed by police.

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Norfolk Constabulary announced this afternoon that they had ended the probe, sparked by the theft of data at the UEA’s Climate Research Centre (CRU), because of a deadline in criminal proceedings.

Police said the investigation found that the data breach was the result of a “sophisticated and carefully orchestrated attack on the CRU’s data files”.

Detective Chief Superintendant 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.”

The security breach was reported to Norfolk Constabulary on November 20 2009, after the data was leaked online from November 17 onwards - weeks before the climate change summit in Copenhagen.

The date was seized on by climate change sceptics who claimed it showed man-made global warming was a conspiracy by scientists.

Code-named Operation Cabin the investigation focused on unauthorised access to computer material, which has a three-year limit on proceedings from the commission of the original offence.

The UEA’s vice-chancellor 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.”

He said the publication of the emails had done “real harm” to public perceptions of climate change.

Prof Acton added: “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.”

Research director at the CRU, Prof Phil Jones, said: “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-a-half years.

“My colleagues and I remain committed to the research CRU undertakes to illuminate the globally important issue of climate change.”

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