Judge accused of illegally accessing files in child abuse case has charge dropped

A crown court judge accused of illegally accessing the digital file of a case in which her daughter was a witness has had the charge against her dropped.

Judge Karen Holt, 55, browsed documents relating to jailed music teacher Cecil McCready, who was then facing trial at Guildford Crown Court for child sex crimes.

She was charged, under the name Karen Smith, with an offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

Mr Justice Davis dismissed the case against her at Southwark Crown Court because of insufficient evidence that her actions were unauthorised.

He said in a ruling on Thursday: “It is not in dispute that Karen Smith used a computer to access the digital case system which led to her obtaining access to data held in the relevant server.

“She accepts that she did so on 30 September 2016.

“What is in issue is whether her access was unauthorised and, if so, whether she knew it was unauthorised. These issues are interlinked.

“The submission made on Karen Smith’s behalf is that the evidence served by the prosecution is insufficient for her to be properly convicted.

“It is argued that, taking the prosecution case at its highest, a reasonable jury properly directed could not convict her.”

He added: “Putting the prosecution case at its highest – Karen Smith looked through material in a digital file out of interest because her daughter was a witness in the case.

“No jury could conclude that Karen Smith in so doing was undermining her independence or impartiality.

“Her actions had no effect at all on the exercise of her judicial functions.”

Holt presides over criminal trials at London’s Isleworth Crown Court.

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