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back to article Police told to use Wikipedia for court preparation

The Crown Prosecution Service is telling police officers to use Wikipedia to prepare for court cases. Mike Finn, an expert witness on martial arts and weapons, told the Police Review he was involved in a case in the Midlands and asked to prepare a report on a weapon. According to the Telegraph, Finn said: "The material they …

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Silver badge

the chain

1.) nick someone

2.) take their stuff

3.) create some Wiki entries about it

4.) charge them

5.) cite Wiki as "proving" how dangerous / illegal / anti-british / pornographic the stuff is

6.) hope the judge & jury & defence is as clueless as you think they are

7.) slam jail cell door shut on victim for several years

8.) update crime statistics with another successful conviction

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WTF?

Inaccurate evidence......

....in a court of law? Whatever next?!

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Shocking

You mean people make stuff up on wikipedia?!

Actually id laugh if it wasnt being used as evidence in a court :/

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FAIL

In other news ...

I hear there is new evidence in the JFK assassination case.

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Flame

Isn't this kinda stupid?

Surely the CPS will bring a prosecution, and then get demolished by any halfway decent defense lawyer?

This should be a no brainer...

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I have just...

...made cannabis legal in the UK. I will take a printout of the wiki page to court with me as proof.

Yesssssssss! Off the hook!

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Coat

Efficiency saving?

So, because of Wikipedia "potentially unsafe and inaccurate evidence could be presented in court"? There is nothing new there, the police have been making stuff up for years. This is just the New Labour approach to public services - by using Wikipedia they have outsourced the "making stuff up" part of the policeman's job to the unpaid volunteer sector.

This should be applauded. Instead of the officers having to sit at their desks making up evidence they can now spend more time on the beat. Oh, hang on. I meant more time on the internet, yes, maybe that's not so good.

I'll get my coat. Hang on, I didn't put these drugs in the pock..... Yes officers, of course I'll come quietly. No, please, you don't need the Tazaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrgggghhhhh

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Have to laugh

You could make a page for your self on there..

And put he was on holdiay the day teh crime happened hehehee

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Anonymous Coward

Now I'd expect

The person who presents Wikipedia as evidence to get laughed out of court, but I have a bad feeling that nobody will be the error in this.

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Good grief

What hope do we have if the CPS think Wikipedia is like some kind of bible? But on the plus side if you're banged up awaiting trial then simply demand access to the Internet (cite your yewman rights) and create a new Wiki page to tell the world about all the great work you do for charity and what a fine upstanding citizen you are. You'll receive an apology and be released in no time!

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FAIL

I can see no way..

this can possibly FAIL...

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FAIL

Sounds like good reason...

... for any case like this to be dismissed.

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FAIL

Reg icons need an update...

...can we have that pic of Picard holding his head? :D

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Big Brother

Who needs facts?

This is British justice Nu Liebore style, all that matters is convictions, none of this presumption of innocence malarkey, if you are in court you must have done something wrong... so why shouldn't the "facts" fit the conviction being sought?

Accuracy? not required, just enough evidence to back the prosecutions assertions and allow the bench/jury to convict in time for lunch - in fact being able to edit the "facts" prior to presentation to the court can have huge advantages in efficiency. Now with "custom facts" it should be far easier to gain convictions, "tough on crime" you see.

Big Bro - cos he knows you are guilty of something - the actual conviction doesn't matter as long as you are convicted of something!

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Black Helicopters

Pray...

...that you are never in a court case which involves Ronnie Hazelhurst

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N2
Bronze badge

Sounds about par for the course

Ive no doubt that when Tony Blair handed over to Gordon Clown, the brief went something like oh and yes, Justice - just make it up as you go along...

Which is pretty well the same for everything else

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Anonymous Coward

Just sayin

What possible reason could this expert witness have to diss Wikipedia then?

Not saying Wikipedia is perfect but I am sure there are times when it is better for a police officer to look up simple facts online rather than to use expensive expert witnesses for every simple thing.

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FAIL

Oh ye gods and little fishes...

Do the Crap Persecution Service have the slightest fucking clue how unreliable Wikipedia is? Do they just not care that they're advising the police to rely on material produced by foaming-mouthed zealots, Walter Mitty-esque fantasists and spotty mouth-breathing 14 year olds sitting in mom's basement in Buttefucke Iowa whose expertise is limited to "a katana can, like, TOTALLY cut a machine gun in half, dude, I saw it in American Ninja 27! LOL!"? The cretinous, useless, negligible tossers!

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Quick arrest Chuck Norris

He is implicated in David Carradines death!

http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=David_Carradine&diff=294383116&oldid=294383096

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Reliability

Wikipedia is a useful starting point - but as Mike Finn has discovered, the reliability can be variable - so it can't be relied on as the sole source of information.

However, within a few minutes you can get an idea of how accurate / reliable the article is:

a) [citation needed] - check the sources / references used! If they're from respectable sites, then quote directly from them. (Easiest way to grab extra sources / references for a project / dissertation / write-up - find a Lit Review, then quote from the articles reviewed - maximum sources for minimum effort <grin>)

b) Check the Talk page - is there much controversy amongst Wikipedians on the article?

c) Check the Edit history - has there been a flamewar / much vandalism?

If the majority / all of the sources used in the main article are reliable, the article itself is fairly stable (i.e. hasn't had oodles of edits recently), and there hasn't been much (if any) debate over its contents, then the article is probably fairly reliable. Although if you quote the sources used to create the page rather than the page itself, you'll earn more kudos :)

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Megaphone

Sounds like it's time

for Vulture Centre to have another 'why Wikipedia is the worst thing since sliced bread' report.

Not that anyone who believes that Wikipedia is the sum of all human knowledge would ever read it, but at least it'd be there.

Shout this one from the rooftops.

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FAIL

Wikipedia

I was going to say that WIkipedia articles would be a dangerous weapon in the hands of the police because they're full of shit and lies.

Now, I'd like to amend that to say "The Police are be a dangerous weapon in the hands of the government because they're full of shit and lies"

At least we know what to do when caught by the police carrying a katana or some other martial weapon - change wikipedia to say that katanas are used to train fluffy ikkle wabbits and that they have no other uses whatsoever.

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Terminator

@EdwardP

The rub lies in the assumption of halfway decent defense council.

This is creepy stuff

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Good Morning Judge

'A digital watch? What on earth is a digital watch?'

'Just a moment M'Lud. i'll check Wikipedia...'

'... Here we are, M'Lud. It is an electronic device designed to measure the radioactivity of haemorrhoids. It was invented by David Hasselhoff, and it is illegal for women to own them in Kazakhstan.'

'Really? Oh. Jolly good then. Case dismissed.'

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Coffee/keyboard

Oh great...

Another keyboard ruined. And it wasn't even funny...

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Joke

The following is intended to be humourous

Now all that needs to happen is for the article on underage sex to be changed to say it's legal in the UK. Then El Reg can cover it. The article can then be used as a source for putting the legality back in.

Et voila, all paedophiles are released as it is not a crime

[/humour]

Seriously though, I think this is budget cuts taken to a new level - the CPS obviously can't afford to buy a full copy of Britannica, or produce a full copy of all British and EU laws.

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FAIL

He was the one what done it M'lud

PC: Yes it was 'im, I 'av the evidence 'ere

[wikifiddle...]

Judge: Are you sure?

[wikifiddle...]

PC: Yes, m'Lud please look at the screen

[wikifiddle...]

PC: Well, er maybe....

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Paris Hilton

Gist-level encyclopedia

Machine translation of human language is sometimes called gist-level translation. It will give you a feel for what the original is about, but it would be extremely unwise to rely on the accuracy of specific details. Wikipedia is a gist-level encyclopedia. It’s absolutely great at giving you an overall idea of a subject area you know nothing about, but no single detail should be trusted. The CPS need to think whether they’d suggest presenting a translation by Google Language Tools in court.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: The following is intended to be humourous

It isn't illegal to *be* a paedophile, though, just to do anything about it.

Well, satire's still got to be accurate, you know.

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Anonymous Coward

Wikipedia and policemen's notebooks similar

In both cases, these include some facts but the authors have made up the rest to suit their own agenda.

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Black Helicopters

No Surprise really

If you have ever had the "joy" of dealing with our inherently corrupt police and CPS you would realise that this is exactly what goes on in this country on a daily basis.

Given that the plod/CPS would have to disclose the expert "evidence" in advance it would be a simple task to amend the wikipedia page and refute the evidence on the day of the trial when the "expert" presenting it is on the stand,

Notwithstanding the fact that to be classed as an "expert" witness in a court in this country you need to affirm to the accuracy of your work and given how useless wikipedia is its hardly going to pass as a peer reviewed source of information for a case.

I am surprised the CPS are telling plod to use wikipedia in the first place, normally they just write the statement they need and get the plod to sign it.

Black helicopters - now guided by Wikinav!

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Grenade

Wikipedia Article On This?

Is there, or will there be, a Wikipedia article on this?

1. Get nicked, charged, prosecuted, and have Wikipedia brought against you in evidence.

2. In your defence, submit the Wikipedia article on exactly this practice, and how Wikipedia is unreliable because of all the usual reasons.

3. ?????

4. PROFIT!

And as a bonus, there gets to be a Wikipedia article - and a genuinely useful one at that - on how Wikipedia is a notoriously unreliable encyclopedia ("that any plod can anonymously taint").

Come to think of it...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia#Reliability_and_bias

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reliability_of_Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Wikipedia

Hand grenade, because this sounds like a delicious opportunity for the police and CPS to be hoist by their own petard (and the hand grenade icon is the closest to a classic petard).

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FAIL

Objection

Objection, you honour: citation needed.

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Pint

Wikipedia the sum of all knowledge and wisdom!

I believe everything I read. I think it makes me a more selective person.

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Coffee/keyboard

US schools

well the ones around here; tell the students not to use wikipedia

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Black Helicopters

@Paul Johnston

Your right, I just checked the wiki and it still says.

"The cause of death was a ninja assasination in the middle of the night. Carradine was unable to fend off the attack because his buddy Chuck Norris was passed out drunk."

If it is on the Wiki it must be true!

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Inadvisable....

I'm a user and editor of Wikipedia, and find it useful - but if the CPS told me to use it to find information, I'd certainly look at it, then go to the citations given, check those out, and if they were reliable perhaps use that - but I wouldn't use wikipedia itself.

If I was on trial (whether guilty or not), and found out that wikipedia was used, I'd be able to quickly get the evidence thrown out of court!

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Anonymous Coward

@AC 10:32 GMT

Are you really that simple-minded or just taking the piss?

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FAIL

Backtards the lot of you

All you seem to be missing the point that comments like "The person who presents Wikipedia as evidence to get laughed out of court," are implicit appeals to authority, as is the use of an expert witness.

Roy Meadow anyone?

As the Standard Repository of All Knowledge and Wisdom has yet to be built, truth largely remains a relative concept. And until such time as Judges can rely on some Externally Defined Objective Truth Machine, they will continue to make bad decisions based on bad data.

"how Wikipedia is a notoriously unreliable encyclopedia"

Every encyclopedia is unreliable. Do we understand now?

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Flame

What you all seem to miss (continuously on the Reg).......

...... is that, the despite the near universal use of the internet in the UK, the vast majority are not even remotely computer literate.

And really why should they be when everything computing is marketed as an essential consumer utility no different than a fridge, TV or washing machine?

It might be heresy here but most people neither know nor care the slightest about IT nor who, how or why any of it works - they just want to email, surf view pics and facebook their mates ..... and that's it!

Absolutely EVERYTHING ELSE is regarded as just too boring and geeky to give even a second thought to; most people I know actually delight in their computer illiteracy - it's seen as far more credible! And this is right across the board regardless of education, class or profession.

Have you guys really not noticed this? I get mocked for even looking at El Reg at work; most find it utterly incomprehensible!

.... and can you really blame them? After all, who but the mechanics and enthusiasts among us can change a car's cam belt or worn clutch bearing despite the probability that far more people own and DEPEND on vehicles than they do on their latest Microsoft Porn Portal?

And you do know that mechanics also scoff at the ignorance and gullibility of the unmechanically minded don't you?

In the real (non IT) world, Wikipedia is widely regarded as the most convenient and accessible source of readily available information - the end!

When I point out the failings most respond with a shrug and say something like "Near enough though eh?" So why should this story be so remarkable when so few non-IT occupations require anything beyond the most basic computer literacy?

@ No Surprise really By nsld

Sorry my friend but grow up!

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FAIL

Good Idea

So long as they cite, and use, legitimate sources there's no problem. The problem will be the cop's inability to distinguish opinion from fact. But that will come out in the court case and eventually this tact will be dropped because of that very reason.

As much as I dislike their breed, lawyers do know how to do legitimate research. The police officers may, but that not being their real job are far less likely to be able to do so.

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TEQ
Stop

Chuck Norris drunk?

It can't be true! There's not enough alcohol in the known universe to get Chuck Norris Drunk!

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Wikipedia is starting point...not the authority

This is the same judicial system ignorance that had a district judge tossing out a case because the issue at hand had been "raised, vetted, blogged, texted, twittered, and otherwise massaged by America's vigilant citizenry"

Wikipedia unfortunately benefits from the word 'encyclopedia' which people have historically trusted because information entered into a published encyclopedia, such as Encyclopedia Brittanica, has been researched and fact-checked by professionals. Wikipedia is merely self-checked by the users, and in some cases by companies and people with a vested interest in making the "facts" portray them in a favorable light. It is also susceptible to people entering completely false information.

Were I a judge and an attorney or witness told me their case used information that came from Wikipedia I'd

1) laugh, and

2) tell them to get some credible experts, and

3) sanction them for wasting the court's valuable time.

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@US schools

Note just US ones ... my son's school (in UK) also has been warning not to trust wikipedia as a source ... to the extent that when I was helping him find some info a few months back he point blank refused to use the info I'd found since it was from wikipedia even though it was, in this case, clearly correct!

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Flame

What you all seem to miss (continuously on the Reg).......

...... is that, the despite the near universal use of the internet in the UK, the vast majority are not even remotely computer literate.

And really why should they be when everything computing is marketed as an essential consumer utility no different than a fridge, TV or washing machine?

It might be heresy here but most people neither know nor care the slightest about IT nor who, how or why any of it works - they just want to email, surf view pics and facebook their mates ..... and that's it!

Absolutely EVERYTHING ELSE is regarded as just too boring and geeky to give even a second thought to; most people I know actually delight in their computer illiteracy - it's seen as far more credible! And this is right across the board regardless of education, class or profession.

Have you guys really not noticed this? I get mocked for even looking at El Reg at work; most find it utterly incomprehensible!

.... and can you really blame them? After all, who but the mechanics and enthusiasts among us can change a car's cam belt or worn clutch bearing despite the probability that far more people own and DEPEND on vehicles than they do on their latest Microsoft Porn Portal?

And you do know that mechanics also scoff at the ignorance and gullibility of the unmechanically minded don't you?

In the real (non IT) world, Wikipedia is widely regarded as the most convenient and accessible source of readily available information - the end!

When I point out the failings most respond with a shrug and say something like "Near enough though eh?" So why should this story be so remarkable when so few non-IT occupations require anything beyond the most basic computer literacy?

@ No Surprise really By nsld

Sorry my friend but grow up!

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Gold badge
WTF?

Re: all those court gags.

Read the article. It says that the Plod are to use the wiki for court preparation. So, something more like:

"That's odd M'lud. According to this brief I've been given, the defendant was detected as doing 48mph in a 30mph zone in Chipping Norton, which is apparently a military/industrial complex situated on the Klingon homeworld. May I have an ajournment while I verify the facts in the case?"

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Re: Reid Malenfant

"Absolutely EVERYTHING ELSE is regarded as just too boring and geeky to give even a second thought to; most people I know actually delight in their computer illiteracy"

True, I saw a colleague reading the BBC News Tech section and told him that he should read The Register if he cared about technology.

His response was that BBC News is good enough. True, for most people the BBCs simplistic tech stories are all they feel they need to know, or in most cases more than they feel they need to know.

Chirpy guff about Twitter and some guy nicking virtual money in a MMORPG is cutting edge high tech stuff to most people.

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FAIL

Wikipedia is High Tech

"In the real (non IT) world, Wikipedia is widely regarded as the most convenient and accessible source of readily available information - the end!"

I am always showing people WikiPedia, they are amazed having never seen it before. People think that Google Chrome and Google are the same thing. They have never heard of Firefox and Opera.

They saw when they ran Google that there was an icon to get the upgraded Google called Google Chrome. They dutifully upgraded their Google to Google Chrome. They have never heard of a Web Browser only Google.

I found this all very confusing.

Obviously Internet Explorer users get an Icon on their Google home page that says upgrade to Google Chrome web browser. Now the techies would almost never click on a banner or an icon on a website. Where we would not even be able to see the adverts our users will see only the adverts, if one says "your computer could be infected, click here for a free checkup" they will click this.

If these people use Wikipedia then they are power users.

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FAIL

Follow the money

Not the Reg's usual standard. Why did the expert witness make this unverified comment?

Who doesn't get paid if plod uses a standard information source?

Of course Wikipedia is not the be all and end all of human knowledge but neither does it pretend to be, no wikipedia editor gets paid when their writing is cited elsewhere unlike this 'expert' who makes his living at it.

I started editing there because i found things that were incorrect and if everybody else who found errors did the same rather than spouting off about how their personal knowledge is, allegedly, so much better then maybe, just maybe reliability might improve.

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