Feeds

Botched judge threat probe downs Fathers 4 Justice website

Taxpayers stung for unjust email injunction

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

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. ®

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

More from The Register

next story
ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION
Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
UK.gov's Open Source switch WON'T get rid of Microsoft, y'know
What do you mean, we've ditched Redmond in favour of IBM?!
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Putin: Crack Tor for me and I'll make you a MILLIONAIRE
Russian Interior Ministry offers big pile o' roubles for busting pro-privacy browser
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
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.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.