Nominet, the U.K.’s national Internet registry, is seeking comment by Sept. 20 regarding a new fast-track process that will allow police to shut down any .uk domain used for criminal purposes without needing a court order.

The policy would apply to sites involved in copyright infringement along with those engaged in fraud, prostitution, money laundering, blackmail and other crimes covered under the U.K.’s 2007 Serious Crimes Act.

Discussions regarding the procedural change have been ongoing for a few years, with authorities contending that the existing process takes too long, enabling miscreants to rip off consumers and vanish before action can be taken. Under the new rules, law enforcement would be required “to provide a declaration that the suspension is proportionate, necessary, and urgent.”

A court order is still recommended, but can be waived if necessary “to prevent serious and immediate consumer harm,” according to the draft proposal. Nominet will not be expected to play any role in determining the criminality of any site, according to the draft. An advisory group was formed in March, chaired by Dr Ian Walden, a professor of communications law at Queen Mary University of London, and including members from law enforcement, ISPs, domain regsitrars and academia.

Nominet does not currently include criminality as a reason for site closure, although in practice it cites “provided false contact details” to shut down illegal activities.

If adopted, which may be determined on Sept. 21, the rules could go into effect by the end of the year.

Related Links:

eWeek Europe –

TechWorld –

Nominet draft proposal (PDF) –

Photo by flickr user Alan Cleaver, used under Creative Commons license