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Microsoft The Courts

Child Abuse Verdict Held Back By MS Word Glitch 191

An anonymous reader writes "Last week several defendants including one high-profile TV presenter were sentenced in Portugal in what has been known as the Casa Pia scandal. The judges delivered on September 3 a summary of the 2000-page verdict, which would be disclosed in full only three days later. The disclosure of the full verdict has been postponed from September 8 to a yet-to-be-announced date, allegedly because the full document was written in several MS Word files which, when merged together, retained 'computer related annotations which should not be present in any legal document.' (Google translated article.) Microsoft specialists were called in to help the judges sort out the 'text formatting glitch,' while the defendants and their lawyers eagerly wait to access the full text of the verdict."
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Child Abuse Verdict Held Back By MS Word Glitch

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 12, 2010 @05:21AM (#33551398)

    OpenOffice, would it be news here?

    • by qbast ( 1265706 ) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @05:24AM (#33551410)
      Sure. Judge actually using OpenOffice would be newsworthy here.
      • Re:Insane!!! (Score:2, Interesting)

        by miknix ( 1047580 )

        I'm Portuguese and I'm really surprised they are using Microsoft tools (Word I guess) for this. The thing gets even more stupid when we think the trial is running since 2004 and when the entire country was expecting the final ruling, the process lagged a while more because of what it seems a Microsoft related glitch. More, (from another TFA []) - they had to call some Microsoft "specialists" hired by the ministry of justice to help with the pro

        • typesetting software is over kill for a document whose final form should be a pdf

          • Typesetting software is precisely the appropriate level of software for a document whose final form should be pdf. Page Layout software however really is overkill for a document over one page indented to convey information primarily through the actual text.

            • How is MS Word page layout software? It's a word processor. Just like OOo. LaTeX is useful if the final form is for printing and layout is absolutely critical (such as magazines, scientific documents with lots of formulas, newspapers, etc.). For legal documents, MS Word or OOo is sufficient.

              • By the seems of things... Word is not sufficient.

                • by tchdab1 ( 164848 )

                  By the seems of things Word is overly sufficient. The bloatware has produced bloatwork that renders the result not even unusable, but counter-productive.

            • Typesetting software is precisely the appropriate level of software for a document whose final form should be pdf. Page Layout software however really is overkill for a document over one page indented to convey information primarily through the actual text.

              No, a text editor is what should be used here. Typesetting software is for converting the document from text to PDF.

              • Uh.. yes, that's what LaTeX is. You edit in any text editor of your choosing, and then run the marked-up, but otherwise completely bog-standard text file through the typesetting engine to produce something you can print, whether that's a PDF, postscript, DVI, or whatever. You can even output HTML if you need to.

                Word is the thing that's overkill: it's page layout software. There are too many knobs for general text, and although it includes tools that could make it nearly as useful as text editor + typeset

                • But with MS Word if you actually try to LAY OUT something with embedded images, columns, etc, it will drive you nuts. How many times have you added one word to a paragraph on a page with a picture or tried to nudge a picture down a bit and everything just snaps and you suddenly find said picture 3 pages down?

                  Word is TEXT ONLY, for desktop publishing or layouts you need something like scribus or the closed source equivalent. Of course, for text it's the defacto standard, I feel sorry for Word Perfect and Qu
                  • The fact that word is a crappy page layout engine, and not really suited to the task does not change the fact that it is, primarily, a page layout engine.

                    Notepad is text only. Wordpad can be text only. Word can export to text, but really isn't "text only" in any sense of the word. Even the text export will be wonky, depending on how it decides to interpret the layout decisions you made.

                    side note: If wordperfect for dos is what you're looking for, I'd recommend one of the incarnations of Vim or Emacs that

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I'm Portuguese too and I am not surprised at all. A couple of years ago, I was accused of an IT related crime. When I went to be heard by the judge, the first thing she tells me is: "I know nothing of computers, for me they are just typewriters".

          Then, under a pile of nerves, I had to explain to her what a server is, the meaning of uploading and downloading files, the difference between a website and a file hosted in a server, among several other basic stuff, dead worried that she would understand something

    • FYI, TFA only mentions 'Microsoft', no mention of 'Word'.
    • So it's Microsoft's fault that people can't use the software?
    • It depends. Does OpenOffice have change tracking and commenting?

      What happened here is they forgot to turn off Track Changes and, possibly, forgot to delete comments.

      It's what happens when you use a word processor like a mechanical typewriter. The problem is not the tool, it's the organization that failed to train its people.

    • No, because it wouldn't have happened.

      But, for a long document, Lyx would be better.

  • 2000 pages... (Score:4, Informative)

    by geogob ( 569250 ) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @05:32AM (#33551430)

    But who would ever think of using word to typeset a 2000 page document build from multiple sources. All my experiences with MS Word tell me that this is going to be a nightmare how ever you try to do it and what ever the content of the document is.

  • by Gnavpot ( 708731 ) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @05:35AM (#33551436)

    I think the important question here is not whether Word or OpenOffice was used.

    The important question is:
    Will this affect the deadline for appeal?

    Not having adequate time to read the full verdict before deciding whether to appeal or not would in my eyes be a serious justice problem.

  • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @05:35AM (#33551440) Homepage Journal
    turns out clippy was working for pedobear this whole time! Or maybe... come to think of it I never have actually seen clippy and pedobear in the same place at the same time....
  • Microsoft WORD? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by JambisJubilee ( 784493 ) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @05:47AM (#33551484)
    I was surprised when I heard this was related to Microsoft Word. Don't most lawyers use Wordperfect?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I was surprised when I heard this was related to Microsoft Word. Don't most lawyers use Wordperfect?

      No, they use IBM GML, aka "Bookmaster" : []

  • by Arrepiadd ( 688829 ) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @06:13AM (#33551568)

    Putting this on Slashdot without giving more the info on this case (which would have very hard) is prone to disaster.

    This has been the longest running case in Portuguese justice and has been full of stupid decision since day one. When this whole thing blew up (6 years ago or so) a few of the key people on the process were arrested and put in jail while the investigation was going. The theory was that there was the danger they would flee the country. Some were left there for the maximum time they can be arrested before a trial, while others after several months in jail were released and no charges were made against them (so maybe they shouldn't have been put in jail in the first place). From the ones that were put in jail and later released, none fled the country. So the first decision on this process was already a mess and a good start for the entire thing.

    The trial was huge and went on for 6 years,the longest even in Portugal. There were 900 witnesses, 7 lawyers for the defendants and also the prosecutors. Since every one of these lawyers and the prosecutors has the right to talk to the witnesses this leads to about 7000 cross-interrogations. Whatever can be taken from 900 people and not summarized by 50 or 100 people (remember, this is a case about child-abuse, not country-wide rigging of elections or whatever) is still to be understood.

    The victims, in many instances, failed to offer clear evidence anything at all. They couldn't be precise on dates on when things happened, on places where things happened, on people present. It gets to the point of one supposed places where the abuses happened is described not by the exact address but by "an apartment with an odd door number on street [whatever]" (in Portugal buildings on one side of the street have odd numbers, on the other side even, so in practice they were just able to say we enter a building on this side of the street). One guy is accused of abusing a boy but the time span is described as "on the second trimester of year XXXX". I wonder how many of us could provide a solid alibi spanning 3 months... I'm not trying to defend no one here, but there were, but as far as we get to know, there was no clear solid evidence to anything. There aren't even phone calls between the abusers and the supposed ring leaders or anyone involved. People abuse other people for years and no phone call is ever made to set up any meetings and so on.

    Now going to the decision itself, it was supposed to be read in June, later postponed to July due to lack of time to write it and then to September (there are "judicial holidays" in August in Portugal) as they still had no time to finish it. When the day of presenting it finally came, they attorneys were not given the decision by the judges, as it still had to be finalized. All sentences in Portugal are presented to the defendant when the paperwork is already on the Ministery of Justice system and can be accessed right away (to start preparing for appeals and so on). Not this one, because it was too big, with 2000 pages, and it had still to be finalized. The date of presenting the decision was Sep 3, the date of finally having the paper work was then said to be the Sep 8. That day came and things were postponed one day because there was a problem with the making of the PDF due to the size of the document. Next day it was postponed again to the 10th and it was a problem with the printer, generically described as a "computer problem", common nowadays when things go south. Friday by the middle of the afternoon the news came out everything will be finished by Monday. And yesterday there was this piece in the same newspaper as presented above:
    Delay due to virus [] (Only in Portuguese, google translate should be as good as before)
    So the reason has been changing with time and the most likely reason is the judges' inability to finish the thing on time (not wanting to go into the lack of skills vs lack of t

    • by oldmac31310 ( 1845668 ) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @06:37AM (#33551640) Homepage
      Thanks for that concise clarification. Now back to ragging on Word!
    • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

      ;Sounds like the OJ Simpson case. Basically a case of an inept judge who was more into publicity than justice. There is no reason that a simple murder trial need take a year.

      I'm not quite sure why a 2000 page decision is needed in a trial of this kind, either. The most serious constitutional questions in any democratic court get settled in a dozen pages or so. This case just sounds like it is a straightforward issue of facts.

      If the defendants were placed in prison this entire time, then they probably ha

      • by tftp ( 111690 )

        I'm not quite sure why a 2000 page decision is needed in a trial of this kind, either.

        There are probably hundreds of people involved; some of them need to be exonerated, other will be guilty of something... it's not too much to ask for 20 pages of plain text to jail someone for 10 years.

        Besides, the judge can't just say "guilty" and be done with it. He needs to explain *why* the accused is guilty. For that he may need quotes from the law and from other cases (if precedents are relevant in .pt.) Also co

    • by GreatBunzinni ( 642500 ) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @09:25AM (#33552194)

      Your report of this whole mess is terribly uninformed and one-sided. Let me add a few details which are fundamental to understanding this case:

      For example, you claimed that the reason behind placing the key suspects in preventative jail terms was to prevent them fleeing the country. What you opted to omit was the fact that there was the impending danger that if they remained free they would try their best to tamper with the investigation, either by tampering witnesses, destroying evidence and conspire with the remaining criminal network to corrupt and derail the judicial process. That's the reason behind the decision to lock them out while the investigation was ongoing. Yet, even though the judges ordered the arrest of the main suspects, they still managed to tamper with the investigation. One example was how Inês Serra Lopes, a journalist which also happened to be the daughter of an attorney defending the main suspect, was caught planting evidence exonerating her father's client [].

      Then, that which you describe as "the victims, in many instances, failed to offer clear evidence anything at all" is a deceitful description of the whole process. I'll point it out to you that this was a child abuse case, where the suspects were charged with the crimes of sexually abusing children between the age of 10 and 14 years old. There were over 30 reported victims, all of which were proven to have been sexually molested through multiple forensic tests. Then, what you describe as "failed to offer clear evidence" was small nit-picking details such as asking a then 10 year old boy the exact day, hour and minute he was sexually abused by suspect X, something which happened over 10 years ago. Besides that, although there were 30 victims and the suspects were accused of committing hundreds of crimes, only a hand full were considered to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, to which it also contributed the fact that one suspect confessed to the crimes and implicated all the other suspects, something which you conveniently omitted.

      Your post has far more deceitful or simply uninformed bits but I believe these facts I've pointed out are enough to get a clear picture of the case.

      • Thank you for this, the gp post did not "smell" right. If you put someone in jail because they might flee the country, release them, and they don't flee, it's more likely that they feel safer having been let go than to assume they would not have left in the first place. The circumstances have changed, in other words, so it doesn't show the original decision was invalid.

        And holding someone that maximum amount of time until charges have to be filed then releasing them sounds perfectly legal. Not very suspe

      • Your post has far more deceitful or simply uninformed bits but I believe these facts I've pointed out are enough to get a clear picture of the case.

        Except, you haven't actually pointed out any significant facts - just handwaving, accusations, and hysteria. You've grossly oversimplified as bad as the OP, just in the opposite direction.

        • Please do point out what facts you believe are insignificant and do point out what you perceive to be hand-waving. Thankfully, this case has been extensively documented so that it is quite easy to access any information to defuse any disinformation attempt.

  • it is difficult to get any real sense of the problem. Arrepiadd has been kind enough to give us some real background to the whole story and a clarification of what the issues are or might be or are purproted to be depending on the day of the week. Thanks for that Arrepiadd.

    Please don't hold back from trashing Word. I hate very few things in life, but Word - as trivial a piece of crap as it may be, it is raises my hackles really intensely and I'm enjoying this potential Word trash fest too much let it go

  • Export to PDF (Score:2, Insightful)

    Experts? This should be a five minute problem: Just export to PDF. Either the legal aids here are really, really computer illterate, or this is some sort of legal trick to stall for time.
  • Just a Guess (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lyinhart ( 1352173 ) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @07:14AM (#33551726)
    Somebody probably sent one or more of the documents using the "Send to Mail Recipient for Review" feature. The feature seems to at least sometimes (perhaps depending on your e-mail client) set a custom property on the word file that makes annotations made by the Track Changes featire virtually impossible to delete. Thus exporting to PDF or something would have kept the printed annotations. So you'd have to turn off Track Changes and delete the Property manual.
  • by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 ) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @08:26AM (#33551936) Homepage Journal

    This is exactly the reason I always advice students to write their thesis in Latex, rather than Microsoft Word. Latex does a better job of typesetting, and is what many people I talk to will end up having to use for journal submissions anyway, but the real kicker is that you don't want the whole thing to blow up and make your document unusable when you're almost done. I've never seen thin happen with Latex. I've seen it happen all too often with Microsoft Word.

    Good luck to these unfortunate fellows in their attempts to get the document in a usable state again. I hope this also prompts a reconsideration of the technology choices. Perhaps Latex isn't the best choice for them, or perhaps it is, or perhaps Latex plus some front end will yield a good solution. Or perhaps Microsoft Word will turn out to be the best choice, after all. But there are several options to consider, and now seems a good time to start doing so.

  • copy/paste ftw (Score:3, Informative)

    by bidule ( 173941 ) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @09:56AM (#33552326) Homepage

    Pick any format-aware application that doesn't handle Microsoft's bloat and paste those 2000 pages. Problem solved!

  • The solution (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anne Honime ( 828246 ) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @10:36AM (#33552560)

    In most situations, when you can't get rid of unwanted text that's sticky in word, do : CTRL+A, CTRL+C, CTRL+N, CTRL+V

    Then keep on editing as usual.

    (and I'm not even kidding)

  • It's not a glitch in MS Word. Word is doing what it's supposed to do. The people using Word messed up, from what I can tell from the translation.

    Blaming Microsoft for this glitch is like blaming Google for the fact that the lawyers probably could have Googled for instructions for how to remove the extra info, but didn't.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by winwar ( 114053 )

      "The people using Word messed up..."

      Yes. By using MS Word in the first place. I don't know if they were ignorant, naive, clueless or stupid or some combination of all of them but I cannot fathom what made them think that using Word for a 2000 page document was a good idea. I made the mistake of using it for a paper a fraction of the size rather than learn latex. I'd swear it has a random formatting generator built in.

  • by BUL2294 ( 1081735 ) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @11:54AM (#33553062)
    Does this come as a surprise to anyone who has used Word extensively???

    To this day, I don't know why Microsoft hasn't added WordPerfect's "Reveal Codes" feature to Word to help resolve this... I cringe whenever I have to merge documents from different sources, especially if they're from different versions (e.g. 97-03 .doc + 07-10 .docx), because I never know how badly the result will turn out...

    In one example of a 10-page merged document, I deleted a group of bullets and the text moved 1/2 way to the right & the font changed, became bold, and was blue. But it wasn't a simple fix of moving the tab stops, changing the font, etc.--it wouldn't let me do some of those things. That document was so screwed up that I had to cut/paste everything into Notepad and spent 3 hours reformatting it from scratch.

    I mean nobody is moving TO WordPerfect from Word, so Corel should want to get some $$$ from Microsoft to license the technology (e.g. due to copyrights, patents)... But then again, Microsoft might be scared to reveal how screwed up the formatting is within .doc and .docx formats, so there might be CYA involved in not doing so...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by thethibs ( 882667 )

      If you're going to merge documents from multiple sources, it helps not to do it in the stupidest possible way.

      Start by reading each source and saving them all in the same format/version. This is as simple as Open... SaveAs...

      If you have duelling styles, resolve them in a single .dot you'll use for the result and resolve the conflicts. That's what the Styles and Formatting dialog is for. That assumes that you have a clue about using styles.

      You can't expect Word to make aesthetic decisions for you, or to reso

      • I recognize that styles can be customized by different users. However, when it comes to college students, few people change the base styles that come with Word. The example I was citing was getting files from 3 different people, none of whom use Word for anything beyond basic word processing, and attempting to cut/paste parts into into a file to submit to a teacher as a group paper. Margins, tab stops, bulleting, source OS (Windows vs. Mac), etc. may all be different, but that wouldn't cause conflicts in
  • by serutan ( 259622 ) <snoopdoug&geekazon,com> on Sunday September 12, 2010 @12:20PM (#33553264) Homepage

    Select All.
    Open Notepad.
    Select All.
    Open a new Word doc.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Congratulations, you've just completely destroyed any kind of formatting more complicated than Tab and Newline. Other than that, yes, it works like a charm.
    • You can also Select All, Copy, and Paste Special 'Unformatted Unicode Text' in Word.
  • Then do it the old way!

    Copy & Paste people! Make a new TXT document, then open each word doc, select all, copy, then paste into the new one in the proper order! Formatting is now removed. Either stick with that, select all and copy the TXT file and paste it in a fresh Word DOC.
    Poof now you magically have a single document that has ALL the other documents merged into it.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"