A British judge who said he didn’t really understand the term “Web site” is fully computer literate and was merely trying to clarify complex evidence for the benefit of the court, the judiciary said on Friday.
The remark by Judge Peter Openshaw during a trial on Wednesday made headlines around the world.
“The trouble is I don’t understand the language. I don’t really understand what a Web site is,” he told a London court during the trial of three men accused of inciting terrorism via the Internet.
In a statement, the Judicial Communications Office did not dispute that Openshaw had been accurately quoted. But it said the remark by the judge, now in his fifth week presiding over the trial, had been taken out of context.
“Trial judges always seek to ensure that everyone in court is able to follow all of the proceedings. They will regularly ask questions — not for their own benefit — but on behalf of all those following a case, in the interests of justice,” it said.
The judge’s comment came as a prosecutor was questioning a witness about links posted to various sites by users of an alleged militant Islamist forum on the Web.
“Mr Justice Openshaw was simply clarifying the evidence presented, in an easily understandable form for all those in court,” the statement said.
“Mr Justice Openshaw is entirely computer literate and indeed has taken notes on his own computer in court for many years,” it added.
Reuters stands by its story. As reported earlier, prosecutor Mark Ellison responded to the judge by explaining the terms ’Web site’ and ’forum’ during exchanges in which Openshaw acknowledged: “I haven’t quite grasped the concepts.”
Anticipating further testimony from a computer expert, the judge later told Ellison: “Will you ask him to keep it simple, we’ve got to start from basics.”
Three men are on trial in the London court on a number of charges including inciting another person to commit an act of terrorism. Violent Islamist material posted on the Internet, including beheadings of Western hostages, is central to the case.