Feeds

Botched judge threat probe downs Fathers 4 Justice website

Taxpayers stung for unjust email injunction

The essential guide to IT transformation

Exclusive The government faces accusations of technical incompetence and waste after it went to the High Court and shut down the Fathers 4 Justice website, wrongly claiming campaigners had threatened to publish the home addresses of 237 judges.

Lawyers for Matt O'Connor, the controversial group's founder, are now preparing action against the Ministry of Justice to recover costs and damages from taxpayers. He alleges civil servants failed to perform basic checks on the origins of the threat before launching a legal attack.

The battle began in late June, when the Ministry of Justice received an email falsely purporting to come from O'Connor. It said Fathers 4 Justice would expose judges on its website as revenge for perceived unfairness in family court decisions.

Officials responsible for the security of HM Courts Service commissioned lawyers in the Treasury Solicitor's Department, which provides legal services across government, to get an emergency injuction against O'Connor, ordering him to shut down the Fathers 4 Justice website.

It was granted by the High Court on July 16. Failure to comply would have landed him in jail for contempt of court, so O'Connor duly took the website offline.

His lawyers immediately began an appeal against the injunction and fought for the Ministry of Justice to disclose the email at the centre of the case. Once they did, O'Connor said, it was obvious the threat did not come from him or the genuine Fathers 4 Justice website.

Last Wednesday 22 July, the government withdrew the injunction.

"I'm not a techie but any fool could have looked at the Message-ID and seen it was a fake - a 10-year-old could have done it," O'Connor told The Register, adding that no attempt was made to verify the email by contacting him directly.

"Someone there is either extremely gullible or vindictive."

In a statement, HM Courts Service said it was continuing to probe the threatening email.

"The injunction sought to prevent the publication of sensitive information. Following representations from the parties on the origins of the email, we have discontinued our injunction and are continuing our investigations elsewhere," it said.

O'Connor is now preparing defamation proceedings against the government because materials disclosed by the Ministry of Justice showed officials shared details about the fake email with other departments, and with the 237 judges threatened.

"All those judges think I made personal threats against them," he said.

Perceived threats to the security of the judiciary are taken very seriously. Earlier this year a Sheffield man was arrested because of his peripheral involvement in administering the activist website Indymedia.

Police demanded to know the identity of a user who posted the home address of a judge who had just handed down jail sentences in a landmark animal rights extremism trial. The man remains on police bail. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
'Stop dissing Google or quit': OK, I quit, says Code Club co-founder
And now a message from our sponsors: 'STFU or else'
Ex US cybersecurity czar guilty in child sex abuse website case
Health and Human Services IT security chief headed online to share vile images
Don't even THINK about copyright violation, says Indian state
Pre-emptive arrest for pirates in Karnataka
The police are WRONG: Watching YouTube videos is NOT illegal
And our man Corfield is pretty bloody cross about it
Felony charges? Harsh! Alleged Anon hackers plead guilty to misdemeanours
US judge questions harsh sentence sought by prosecutors
Oz biz regulator discovers shared servers in EPIC FACEPALM
'Not aware' that one IP can hold more than one Website
Apple tried to get a ban on Galaxy, judge said: NO, NO, NO
Judge Koh refuses Samsung ban for the third time
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.