Journalists given Contempt of Court warning over influencing sentencing judge in hacker case

A judge warned journalists against reporting extra details in the case of a teenager convicted of computer hacking charges – because, he said, there was a risk that coverage might prejudice the sentencing judge.

Mr Justice Andrew Gilbart issued the warning at Leicester Crown Court on Friday last week at a hearing at which 18-year-old Kane Gamble admitted eight charges of “performing a function with intent to secure unauthorised access” to computers and two charges of “unauthorised modification of computer material”.

William Harbage QC, defending, said Gamble was “on the autistic spectrum” and had committed the offences when aged 15 and 16.

The teenager, who was dressed in black, was allowed to sit at the back of the court, next to his mother, throughout the hearing.

The prosecution case was not opened and no details were given in court about the offences Gamble admitted.

He was released on conditional bail and will be sentenced at the same court on 15 December, with Mr Justice Andrew Gilbart warning him: “All options will be available to the sentencing judge.”

It is understood that another High Court judge, Mr Justice Charles Haddon-Cave, will be sentencing Gamble.

Reports at the time of Gamble’s arrest in February 2016 that said that from June 2015 he had targeted high-profile figures such as the then CIA chief John Brennan and Mark Giuliano, deputy director of the FBI.

He was reportedly linked to the group “Crackas with Attitude”, which claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Several sensitive documents were reportedly obtained from Mr Brennan’s private inbox, including a 47-page application for top secret security clearance.

A Comcast cable TV and broadband account belonging to James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence under President Barack Obama, was also targeted, as were President Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Avril Haines, his senior science and technology adviser, John Holdren, the then Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and FBI Special Agent Amy Hess.

Gamble was also reported to have tried to hack into the FBI’s Law Enforcement Exchange Portal and the US Department of Justice’s network.

Mr Justice Gilbart told the two journalists at Friday’s hearing – one of whom was from the Press Association – that they should not report anything which had not been said at in court, and pointed out that that prosecution had not yet opened the case.

“Any reporting of speculation and you could find yourselves in Contempt of Court,” he said.

“Anything you say could prejudice the sentencing judge.”

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