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Judge on trial for alleged unauthorised access to case management system

A Crown Court Judge has appeared in the dock at Southwark Crown Court charged with an offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

Her Honour Judge Sandra Holt, appearing under the name of Karen Smith, pleaded not guilty to one count of using a computer to perform a function to secure access to a program or data, held in any computer, namely the case file for Cecil McCready held on the Digital Case System. For the charge to be proven it is necessary for the Prosecution to show HHJ Holt knew that such access was unauthorised.

Cecil McCready was a former music teacher who ultimately pleaded guilty to three offences of sexual assault against pupils. He was sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment by Guildford Crown Court in March 2017. He had initially denied the charges in 2016, but changed his pleas to guilty in 2017.  HHJ Holt is alleged to have gained unauthorised access to his case file on the Crown Court’s Digital Case System on 30 September 2016. Her trial is now listed on 9 July 2018 and expected to last three days.

The Crown Court Digital Case System was phased in between 2015 and 2016, the idea being to create an electronic file of all key trial material, including Prosecution evidence, Defence responses, sentencing materials and judicial comments, court orders and directions. Only the specific individuals authorised to access each individual case file should be able to view the cases. Ordinarily, it is only possible to gain access to each case file by being ‘invited’ by a person who already had access.

Precisely how it is alleged HHJ Holt gained unauthorised access to Mr McCready’s Digital Case File, the alleged purpose in so doing, and any rebuttal or defence response, remains to be seen.

In any event, such a high profile prosecution is a reminder to all Digital Case System users of the importance of proper procedure when accessing Court material.


Click here to see how Brett Wilson LLP can assist you if you are being prosecuted for offences under the Computer Misuse Act 1990.


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Articles are intended as an introduction to the topic and do not constitute legal advice.