UK judge appears in dock over Computer Misuse Act allegations

Said to have viewed case file she had a personal interest in

A Crown court judge stands accused of breaching the Computer Misuse Act after allegedly accessing a case file that she had a personal interest in.

Her Honour Judge Karen Jane Holt appeared at Southwark Crown Court yesterday. It was said that in September 2016 she viewed the digital case file for one Cecil McCready, a music teacher found guilty last year of child sex crimes. It is understood the victim is not related to Holt.

Charged under the name Karen Smith, Holt is accused of "intending to secure unauthorised access to that programme and data, knowing at the time that such access was unauthorised". The Crown prosecutor's case against her hinges on whether her access to the judicial Digital Case System when she viewed McCready's file was authorised or not.

Holt, a criminal barrister with more than two decades' experience who was appointed as a recorder (part-time judge) in 2009, was locked in the dock for the duration of the hearing. The accusation against her was made under section 1(1) of the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

Patrick Gibbs QC, Holt's barrister, told presiding judge Mr Justice Davis: "The Crown has... set out the documents which were viewed and the length of time for which they were viewed."

Prosecuting barrister Philip Evans QC told the court the accusations were "not a case of carelessness or stupidity, it is a deliberate attempt to access files".

The 55-year-old defendant, of Lightwater, Surrey, spent most of the hearing with her head supported on one hand or hunched over so her hair hid her face. At more than one point she silently wiped away tears.

Granting Holt unconditional bail and making preparations for a three-day trial, Mr Justice Davis said: "Mrs Smith, I have no doubt you have said this to people so it will come as no surprise to you that if you don't come on 9 July you will be tried in your absence."

In 2014 Holt herself sat in judgment on a fellow judge, former immigration beak and barrister Michael Shrimpton. Her legal chambers, 23 Essex Street, described her in an online CV as having "extensive experience of both defending and prosecuting in all areas of complex crime". ®

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