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Three judges fired for using office computers to watch porn

Technically Incorrect: In Britain, it seems the judiciary can be injudicious when it comes to using technology at work.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


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The judiciary has weaknesses? Stubborn3D/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

When a judge looks down upon you in a court of law, you get the feeling that they're a little bit superior.

Some might find, therefore, a certain comfort in the idea that the judiciary are just as human as the rest of us.

Even judges can be, as it were, in contempt of court.

I am moved to these sad thoughts by the news that today three judges in the UK were fired for being very, very naughty boys.

This dewigging was announced by the UK's Judicial Conduct Investigations Office.

In rigid lawyerly tones, it announced: "District Judge Timothy Bowles, Immigration Judge Warren Grant and Deputy District Judge and Recorder Peter Bullock have been removed from judicial office following an investigation into an allegation that they viewed pornographic material on judicial IT equipment in their offices."

A fourth accused judge resigned before discipline was meted out, but none of the judges is said to be connected to any of the others.

How odd that so many judges may have been experiencing titillation at the pleasure of the nation.

Some might be stunned that they could. Many is the office that automatically blocks access to porn on its computers. In the UK, it seems judges were trusted to use their judgment.

Their bosses sought to make clear that the material viewed wasn't illegal and didn't contain images of children. However, they decided that this was "an inexcusable misuse of their judicial IT accounts."

There's a sense at times that many in the judiciary aren't too au fait with technology. Did these judges not realize that their searches for relief might have remained recorded on their computers?

The London Times reports that it hasn't been revealed whether the judges were watching during office hours or in downtime. Or, it offered teasingly, even when the judges were in court. What a thought.

It's extremely rare for a British judge to be fired. To see three fired is quite a whipping for the image of the judiciary. It even astonished the BBC, which suggested that their only option for appeal would be, well, a judicial review.

There's a a certain sadness, of course, when anyone loses their job because of a personal foible. These aren't the first men of authority, though, to believe that rules might not apply to them.

Not too long ago, the British parliament experienced 300,000 searches for porn in little over a year.

My mind is permanently etched, however, with the story of the Indonesian lawmaker who was photographed viewing porn during a parliamentary debate.

It wasn't merely that he was a lawmaker that moved me. It was that he was an antiporn crusader.

All too often those in authority like to behave as if they aren't you or me. It's soothing to realize they might be.