Friday, July 11, 2014

Colwyn Bay - 'Brilliant' Colwyn Bay former student loses appeal over school computer hack

'Brilliant' Colwyn Bay former student loses appeal over school computer hack

Failed attempt by former Eirias High student Matthew Edward Higgins to have a conviction overturned on the basis he has since been diagnosed with Asperger’s

Matthew Edward Higgins of Meadowbank, Old Colwyn
A brilliant former A-level student who hacked into his school computer system has failed in a bid to clear his name – despite his lawyers telling judges his recently diagnosed autism may have played a part in his crimes.
Matthew Edward Higgins downloaded information from the database at Eirias High,Colwyn Bay, when he was in the sixth form in 2011.
Higgins, 22, of Meadowbank, Old Colwyn, was handed a 12-month community order at Mold Crown Court in November 2012 after being found guilty of one count of securing unauthorised access and one of attempting to do so.
Yesterday, he challenged his convictions at London’s Criminal Appeal Court, with his lawyers arguing they were “unsafe” in light of medical evidence recently been obtained indicating he has Asperger’s syndrome.
They said that the evidence suggested he had the disorder at the time of the offences and that, had this information been before the jury at his trial, the verdicts may have been different.
But his appeal was dismissed by three of the country’s top judges,  who said the recent diagnosis did not undermine the jury’s verdict.
Mr Justice Openshaw told the court that Higgins said he had been bullied and that, whatever the truth, his relationship with the school had “deteriorated” towards the end of his time there.
In March 2011, the school received an email from someone posing as the father of a pupil, requesting that the pupil’s password for the school's  computer network be changed.
Believing this to be genuine, a member of staff changed the password and sent the new one in reply. This was used to access that pupil’s  personal information, which was posted on a hackers’ forum.
An investigation revealed the email had been sent from Higgins’s home.
A second, similar request was made in May the same year, but this time staff were suspicious and didn’t respond. The matter was reported to police and Higgins was arrested in July, and his computer equipment was seized.
He admitted accessing the school’s network but denied sending either of the emails, claiming he had been “set up”. However, he was found guilty by the jury.
His lawyers argued that, in light of his recent diagnosis, there was now a medical explanation for his seemingly outlandish claims he had been set up.
They also said that, had the jury known of his condition, they may have understood if his behaviour seemed “odd”, or if he struggled to communicate during his trial.
Dismissing his appeal, Mr Justice Openshaw said that the fresh medical evidence did not assist Higgins as his defence at trial was that he hadn’t committed the offences.
Sitting with Lord Justice Pitchford and Judge Melbourne Inman QC, he added: “We do not see how the later diagnosis can provide a defence.”

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