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   prison. The judge would make up his mind without input from the DPP.

  

   Electron fiddled nervously with his father's wedding ring, which he

   wore on his right hand. After his father's death, Electron's sister

   had begun taking things from the family home. Electron didn't care

   much because there were only two things he really wanted: that ring

   and some of his father's paintings.

  

   Kayser called a handful of witnesses to support the case for a light

   sentence. Electron's grandmother from Queensland. The family friend

   who had driven Electron to the hospital the day his father died.

   Electron's psychiatrist, the eminent Lester Walton. Walton in

   particular highlighted the difference between the two possible paths

   forward: prison, which would certainly traumatise an already mentally

   unstable young man, or freedom, which offered Electron a good chance

   of eventually establishing a normal life.

  

   When Kayser began summarising the case for a non-custodial sentence,

   Electron could hear the pack of journalists off to his side

   frantically scribbling notes. He wanted to look at them, but he was

   afraid the judge would see his ponytail, carefully tucked into his

   neatly ironed white shirt, if he turned sideways,

  

   `Your Honour,' Kayser glanced backward slightly, toward the court

   reporters, as he warmed up, `my client lived in an artificial world of

   electronic pulses.'

  

   Scratch, scribble. Electron could almost predict, within half a

   second, when the journalists' pencils and pens would reach a crescendo

   of activity. The ebb and flow of Boris's boom was timed in the style

   of a TV newsreader.

  

   Kayser said his client was addicted to the computer the way an

   alcoholic was obsessed with the bottle. More scratching, and lots of

   it. This client, Kayser thundered, had never sought to damage any

   system, steal money or make a profit. He was not malicious in the

   least, he was merely playing a game.

  

   `I think,' Electron's barrister concluded passionately, but slowly

   enough for every journalist to get it down on paper, `that he should

   have been called Little Jack Horner, who put in his thumb, pulled out

   a plumb and said, "What a good boy am I!"'

  

   Now came the wait. The judge retired to his chambers to weigh up the

   pre-sentence report, Electron's family situation, the fact that he had

   turned Crown witness, his offences--everything. Electron had given a

   nine-page written statement against Phoenix to the prosecution. If the

   Phoenix case went to trial, Electron would be put on the stand to back

   up that statement.

  

   In the month before Electron returned to court to hear his sentence,

   he thought about how he could have fought the case. Some of the

   charges were dubious.

  

   In one case, he had been charged with illegally accessing public

   information through a public account. He had accessed the anonymous

   FTP server at the University of Helsinki to copy information about

   DES. His first point of ac