Judge Peter Openshaw, 59, brought an Internet terror trial to a halt when he admitted he struggled to cope with basic terms like “website”.
The Judge said he was completely lost by the terminology during the questioning of a witness about a Web forum used by alleged Islamist radicals.
He told stunned prosecutors at Woolwich Crown Court in south east London: “The trouble is I don’t understand the language. I don’t really understand what a website is.”
The Judge is hearing a trial of three men charged under anti-terrorism laws.
This sounds a bit fishy to me – just one of those simple stories that go round the world. What if the judge does know what a website is, but finds the detailed testimony on the relation of website hosting to criminal offences confusing?
And indeed, it looks as if he does know what a website is and was trying to get the evidence simplified for the jury:
But the Judicial Communications Office (JCO) later released a statement insisting Judge Openshaw was “entirely computer literate”.
It said the judge’s comments, in the fifth week of a trial largely based on computer generated evidence, had been taken out of context.
He had been simply clarifying the evidence presented in an easily understandable form, for all those in court, the JCO statement continued.
“Mr Justice Openshaw is entirely computer literate and indeed has taken notes on his own computer in court for many years,” the statement said.
Now the Judicial Communications Office is new to me. I don’t think they have one of those in Germany.
The JCO was created in April 2005 to enhance public confidence in judicial office holders in England and Wales. It provides external and internal communications support.
The JCO supports all judges, both full- and part-time, together with tribunal members and magistrates in England and Wales. Here’s its statement (it doesn’t appear to have a website of its own!)