Judges will have lessons in surfing the Net

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Judges are to be given lap-tops and full access to the internet in a bid to bring them in line with European law.

Judges are to be given lap-tops and full access to the internet in a bid to bring them in line with European law.

But in order to prevent hackers accessing court files, all judges' visits to websites will be strictly anonymous.

The move follows a survey which showed that nearly half of judges in England and Wales already use personal computers to access the internet. At a cost of many thousands of pounds, judges will also receive training on how to surf it.

Until now the Lord Chancellor's Department has resisted pressure from judges to plug them into the internet. Ministers have been told that there would be security risks which might give hackers access to court judgments and other judicial documents.

However, a survey of 70 judges, published this week by the legal publishers Sweet and Maxwell, found that 44 per cent were already connected to the internet at home or through other means. One judge even has his own website.

According to Sweet and Maxwell, judges have become increasingly frustrated by the Lord Chancellor's refusal to authorise official access at work.

A spokeswoman for the Lord Chancellor's Department said yesterday "security objections" had now been overcome and a full access programme would be rolled out over the summer.

She said the impetus behind the programme was judicial compliance with the Human Rights Act, which will be introduced in October. If judges are to use the Act correctly they will need to have research access to internet case law found on the European Court of Human Rights website, based in Strasbourg.

She said officials had been working with a service provider to develop a secure system which meant all visits by judges to websites could not be traced.

A survey has found that 91 per cent of judges still favour working with documents on paper.