Page 187

Undergound. Go to Table of Contents.

   The trial was being held in London. Pad wondered why, if all three

   hackers were from the north, the case was being tried in the south.

   After all, there was a court in Manchester which was high enough to

   deal with their crimes.


   Maybe it was because Scotland Yard was in London. Maybe they had

   started the paperwork down there. Maybe it was because they were being

   accused of hacking computers located within the jurisdiction of the

   Central Criminal Court--that court being the Old Bailey in London. But

   Pad's cynical side hazarded a different guess--a guess which seemed

   justified after a few procedural appearances in 1992 before the trial,

   which was set for 1993. For when Pad arrived at the Bow Street

   Magistrates Court for his committal in April 1992, he saw it packed

   out with the media, just as he had anticipated.


   A few hackers also fronted up to fly the flag of the underground. One

   of them--a stranger--came up to Pad after court, patted him on the

   back and exclaimed enthusiastically, `Well done, Paddy!' Startled, Pad

   just looked at him and then smiled. He had no idea how to respond to

   the stranger.


   Like the three Australian hackers, Pad, Gandalf and the little-known

   Wandii were serving as the test case for new hacking laws in their

   country. British law enforcement agencies had spent a fortune on the

   case--more than [sterling]500000 according to the newspapers--by the

   time the 8lgm case went to trial. This was going to be a show case,

   and the government agencies wanted taxpayers to know they were getting

   their money's worth.


   The hackers weren't being charged with breaking into computers. They

   were being charged with conspiracy, a more serious offence. While

   admitting the threesome did not hack for personal gain, the

   prosecution alleged the hackers had conspired to break into and modify

   computer systems. It was a strange approach to say the least,

   considering that none of the three hackers had ever met or even talked

   to the others before they were arrested.


   It was not so strange, however, when looking at the potential

   penalties. If the hackers had been charged with simply breaking into a

   machine, without intending any harm, the maximum penalty was six

   months jail and a fine of up to [sterling]5000. However, conspiracy,

   which was covered under a different section of the Act, could bring up

   to five years in jail and an unlimited amount in fines.


   The prosecution was taking a big gamble. It would be harder to prove

   conspiracy charges, which required demonstration of greater criminal

   intent than lesser charges. The potential pay-off was of course also

   much greater. If convicted, the defendants in Britain's most important

   hacking case to date would be going to prison.


   As with The Realm case, two hackers--Pad and Gandalf--planned to plead

   guilty while the third--in this case Wandii--planned to fight the

   charges every step of the way. Legal Aid was footing the bill for

   their lawyers, because the hackers were either not working or were

   working in such lowly paid, short-term jobs they qualified for free

   legal support.


   Wandii's lawyers told the media that this showcase was tantamount to a

   state trial. It was the first major hacking case under the new

   legislation which didn't involve disgruntled employees. While having