Words Fail Me

A British judge admitted on Wednesday he was struggling to cope with basic terms like “Web site” in the trial of three men accused of inciting terrorism via the Internet.

Judge Peter Openshaw broke into the questioning of a witness about a Web forum used by alleged Islamist radicals.

“The trouble is I don’t understand the language. I don’t really understand what a Web site is,”


  1. *fancy* electric typewriter? hmm, no, that would be a computer.

    I got nothing.

  2. I blogged about this earlier. One thing that should be emphasised is that this has to be an indictment of the administrators of the court concerned. Do they not supply judges with Internet-enabled computers? Do they not conduct the business of the court using computers?

  3. EDIT: Sorry, I didn’t include in my comment the link to my blog; it’s: http://stumblng.tumblr.com/post/2014801

  4. I’ve heard it’s a series of tubes….

  5. At least he admitted that he didn’t have a clue, before the case went down the tubes.

  6. !!! I agree with David… If at least all judges admitted!

  7. We’re not doing too badly here: I blogged on Slaw about my visit to the SCC and noted that only one judge was using a computer. But we learned from Mr. Justice Bastarche at Dominic’s conference in Montreal that all of the judges of the court will be equipped with computers at the bench and will have access to all documents via these machines.

  8. I was suprised by Mr. Justice Bastarache’s explanations but, hey, after all this is the Supreme court and, trust me, it ain’t that sunny in lower courts! You will remember also that, at Leg@l.IT, an appeal court judge explained us how a couple of months ago the complete cases files (facta, autorities, stenographic notes, etc.) were circulated physically between Quebec and Montreal. Ok, they have seen the light and are now using the email…

    In the Superior and Quebec courts, it is sometimes as depressing. I have heard judges make comments like:
    1) “What is a web page?”…”Could you send it to me by email?”;
    2) “I don’t care about the metadata, what is important is the content of the document”;
    3) “Why do you want virtual documents if the opposing party is willing to give you these (22) boxes of binders?”
    I could probably write a book!

    That being said, I know that the judiciary is trying to pick up speed on the issue of IT. However, from what I am told, what lacks is the needed budget from the provincial government…

  9. When I was a legal counsel at the ABCA a few years ago, use of IT by the judges was a matter of course. Without going into much detail, I can give the example of electronic appeals (factums etc. filed by the parties on CD-ROM) which were old hat when I joined the Court. Several judges also initiated an electronic (intranet-based) bench book project for use in and out of the courtroom. The judges sat on appeals in both Calgary and Edmonton so the electronic tools, laptops, VPN, etc. were used extensively.

  10. more recent news suggests that his Lordship is computer literate and knows what a web site is in practice. I take it therefore that his question could be more “what is a website in law?”, and that’s not such a slam dunk. It’s a publication, but by whom, where, when, and subject to what limits?

    Or it may just have been – as the Judicial Council now says – to make sure that everyone in the courtroom was on the same page.

    I haven’t seen enough detail about the case being tried or the witnesses being examined at the time of the question to know what point the judge might have been making, but it sounds a far cry from the US judge a dozen years ago or so who called a fax “just beeps and chirps”.