Judge Presiding Over Online Terrorism Case Confused By The Term 'Web Site'

from the probably-not-the-ideal-judge dept

Government officials not understanding technology is nothing new, and unfortunately it often results in bad laws and bad legal rulings. Usually, the problem is exacerbated by the fact that the people in question don't recognize their own ignorance. So it's refreshing to see that a judge in Britain presiding over a case involving terror planning over the internet has admitted the he doesn't understand terms like "web site". Following this admission, the prosecuting attorney took a moment to try explaining the concept to the judge, but the quick explanation didn't do much for the judge's understanding, which is not surprising. Seriously, it's good that the judge has admitted his ignorance, but you'd think that the logical thing to do would be to recuse himself from the case, if that's possible. Instead he's staying on, and he's asked the prosecutor to keep the forthcoming questioning of a computer expert simple. You have to wonder, though, what the point is in questioning an expert if his testimony has to be kept simple enough for this judge to understand.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Anonymous Poster, May 16th, 2007 @ 4:09pm

    Okay, that's just plain sad.

     

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  2.  
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    TheDock22, May 16th, 2007 @ 4:14pm

    For some reason...

    ...I really like this judge.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2007 @ 4:18pm

    Holy !@$^%ing God!

    That has to be among the most rediculous things I have ever heard!

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2007 @ 4:30pm

    Its hardly unexpected. I don't know the case myself but a judge in the UK is gonna be in his 50s and most likely cares more about his golf clubs than anything technological, be that online or otherwise.

    You would think though, that the government could put on some kind of "basic IT" course for their staff that are supposed to make judgements on thse things.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2007 @ 4:48pm

    I am at a loss to understand how anyone of any age in 2007 would not understand the term "web site". Just for the record, I am 51 years old and have never touched a golf club in my life. ;)

     

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  6.  
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    Kyros, May 16th, 2007 @ 4:55pm

    Ah, but not all people care about technology. At least he admits it, so give him some credit.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2007 @ 5:04pm

    Newsworthy

    Wow! A judge that's willing to admit that he doesn't know everything. Now that's newsworthy.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2007 @ 5:10pm

    Re:

    What about Mini-golf? :)

     

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    Coises (profile), May 16th, 2007 @ 5:38pm

    Isn't simplification the point of an expert witnes

    You have to wonder, though, what the point is in questioning an expert if his testimony has to be kept simple enough for this judge to understand.

    I could easily be mistaken, but isn’t the point of having an expert witness that unlike an ordinary witness, within his or her field of expertise he or she may be asked for conclusions, and those conclusions are to be given weight in reaching a decision? We wouldn’t expect an expert medical witness in a murder case to lead a jury to a full understanding of why various toxicological data imply that the victim could not have died of a particular sort of poisoning... merely to attest that such is the case. I think the purpose of an expert witness must be precisely to convert esoteric knowledge to conclusions ordinary folk can understand.

     

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  10.  
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    Amethyst, May 16th, 2007 @ 7:22pm

    I fail to see how anyone above the age of 5 and under the age of 70 doesn't know what a web site is in this day and age. Even if they don't use the internet, most people, even uneducated ones, know what a web site is. I agree that the govt. needs to do a better job of training its employees, and at least require them to pass a basic computer literacy course.

     

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  11.  
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    fliptrx, May 16th, 2007 @ 9:26pm

    Some judges...

    Some judges have no business being a judge...but look at it this way, the worse you are at being a judge, the more likley it is that you could end up with your own TV show!

     

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  12.  
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    Shohat, May 16th, 2007 @ 11:34pm

    Digerati Idiots.

    What do you people know about Architecture? Or the inner-workings of a car ? Or furniture construction ? Farming ? (and not for WoW gold)
    Chances are , not much.
    But all these things go into court , and judges make their decisions based on what is explained to them.You don't have specialized judges for every industry.
    A judge shouldn't understand what a website is - it's not trivial knowledge, and twelve years ago nobody knew what a website was, unlike the subjects I mentioned above.
    Judge is doing the right thing.

     

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  13.  
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    fuzzix, May 16th, 2007 @ 11:54pm

    What do you people know about Architecture? Or the inner-workings of a car ? Or furniture construction ? Farming ?

    Architecture? Not a lot - I know a lot of it is ugly to me ;)
    Inner workings of a car? I could give you the basics of internal combustion and a little more.
    Furniture construction? A bit - One of my uncles is a carpenter, another is an upholsterer.
    Farming? I used to work in the Dept of Agriculture so I know a little. Never got up at 5am to tend anything but I'm aware of some of the challenges.

    I'm not particularly stunned that there are people out there who don't know what a website is. My next door neighbour would be one (at a guess). My grandmother thinks my computer is some sort of television. I'm a little surprised that a judge isn't aware of the basics - seemingly has never been online. I would have thought a finger on the zeitgeist would be essential for someone deciding (or rather, enforcing) what's acceptable behaviour in a society.

    So, who knows a judge who isn't completely out of touch? Or is it a prerequisite for the job?

     

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    Paul, May 17th, 2007 @ 12:29am

    Re: Digerati Idiots.

    Actually, a judge should know what a web site is - it's something that somebody who lives in today's world should have at least heard of, even if they don't fully understand how it works.

    To use your examples - I don't know the full inner workings of a car, but I know what a spark plug and a fan belt are. I don't know furniture construction, but I've at least heard of screws, nails and joints. I don't know farming, but I know what a plough is. I don't care about any of these subjects, but if somebody were to explain something about those subjects to me, I could at least follow thanks to the general terminology I've picked up over the years by living in our society.

    The point here is that whatever decision the judge makes could have repercussions for how these cases are tried in the future, as it could be referred to in future decisions. If the judge can't even understand the basic everyday terminology, how is he supposed to make the correct decision? If the judge can't comprehend a web site, how can he be expected to rule correctly on how the alleged terrorists used the internet?

     

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    mike allen, May 17th, 2007 @ 1:50am

    hang on a minute

    In most walks of life most people use the Internet weather that is for themselves or work even courts have web sites. offices and yes courts have intra nets judgments are recorded on computers. So who ever this judge he must have been living in a cupboard for years. oh yes and BTW Anonymous coward im 55 i and never touched a golf club er whats a golf club a boozer.

     

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    The infamous Joe, May 17th, 2007 @ 4:11am

    whiskey tango foxtrox.

    They have the internet(s) on computers now?!

     

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  17.  
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    Dave, May 17th, 2007 @ 4:59am

    Re: Re: Digerati Idiots.

    "Actually, a judge should know what a web site is"
    "To use your examples - I don't know the full inner workings of a car, but I know what a spark plug and a fan belt are."

    True...but remember that a judge's job/duty is to determine guilt or innocence. Put yourself in the position of a judge in a case involving somethign related to auto-mechanics...would you feel OK about potentially denying somebody their freedom - or, potentially, their life - on the strength of something that you know a bit about?

    I say fair play to the judge - he recognised he was out of his depth and had the guts to admit it.

     

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  18.  
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    Bob Hutchison, May 17th, 2007 @ 10:59am

    So, what is the definition of 'web site' anyway?

    Everyone should know the definition of website, right?

    My dictionary says: "a location connected to the Internet that maintains one or more pages on the World Wide Web."

    What's a location? What's a page? What's the difference between the internet and the world wide web?

    What's the difference between a webserver and a website? Can a single server serve more than one website? Can a single website be served by more than one webserver?

    Can you distinguish between two locations? how? Does a website have one, or more than one domain name? IP addresses? locations?

    Can you distinguish between two pages? How? If two pages have different CSS, say, so they look different, are they different?

    Can a single page belong to two websites?

    Can a website be a subset of another.

    If a page points to another website, how do you know? What if the other location has two domains pointing at it and both domains appear in some page as links?

    What if a website is changed? Does that make a new website?

    I can go on.

    I think a definition of a web page is possible, I don't know about website.

    Now, what if these questions are relevant to the court case? What does the judge do? Admit he doesn't know what a website is? or pretend?

     

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  19.  
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    Rushboy, May 17th, 2007 @ 11:13am

    I agree to Shohat. These judges rule cases in extensive/general topics, from real state to technologies... it's a lot of specific knowledge, what is really uncommon to be familiar. And they judge with some success rate day-by-day, based on case files. Ok, ok, isn't that believable someone with such culture still don't get connected, but it doesn't throw out all the implicit law legitimation: the process is designed to cover this, so.

     

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  20.  
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    Coaster26, May 17th, 2007 @ 1:33pm

    lol

    Looks like someone fell off the learning curve....

     

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