On the face of it, teenager Ryan Cleary appears the archetypal computer geek who retreated from the real world into a digital one.
When he was charged with hacking into the website of the Serious Organised Crime Agency, observers branded him a recluse who needed to ‘get a girlfriend’.
But he was already dating Amy Chapman, 19, – and now a judge has refused his request to see her alone.
The Aspergers sufferer is said to be a key member of the computer hacking network LulzSec, which has been blamed for attacks on the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the CIA, Sony and News International.
He is alleged to have controlled a ‘botnet’ of up to half a million compromised computers which he used to launch ‘denial of service’ attacks against websites.
He was charged in June and bail conditions imposed in court stipulate that he can only leave his home address with a parent.
Addressing London’s Southwark Crown Court, his defence barrister Ben Cooper asked for this to be changed so Cleary could see Miss Chapman without his parents being present.
Refusing the application, Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith said: ‘I will not consider making a variation until the police have interviewed her and that they are satisfied that she is responsible enough to take on the duty.’
Cleary and fellow alleged LulzSec member Jake Davis, 18, were not required to attend the hearing.
Davis is said to have operated from his bedroom in the Shetland Islands and used the online name Topiary.
The judge issued a stark warning to both defendants to comply with their bail conditions as he fixed their plea and case management hearing for January 27, 2012.
‘First of all bail has to be on the same stringent terms for both of these defendants and I reiterate, as I did to one of them who has appeared before me, that if they breach any of these conditions they can be arrested and brought before the court and almost certainly remanded in custody,’ he said.
Cleary, of South Beech Avenue, Wickford, Essex, is charged with five offences under the Computer Misuse and Criminal Law Acts.
He is alleged to have taken part in a denial of service attack – which cripple websites by overwhelming them with requests for data – that briefly brought down SOCA’s site.
Cleary is also accused of involvement in two similar attacks on the websites of both the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry and its British counterpart on November 28 and October 29 respectively.
A further charge alleges that he ‘made, adapted, supplied or offered to supply’ access to a ‘botnet’ – a network of computers, hijacked without their owners’ knowledge – for use in the attacks.
Each of the three charges relating to DoS attacks carry a maximum jail sentence of 10 years, while the botnet charge could result in up to two years imprisonment.
Davis, of Hoofields, Lerwick, Shetland, is alleged to have played a leading role in LulzSec, a group that was said to have been disbanded after being linked to attacks on a number of high-profile sites.
He is charged with gaining unauthorised access to a computer system, encouraging or assisting offences and two counts of conspiracy to commit offences.
He also faces a charge of conspiring to carry out a distributed denial of service attack – where a website is flooded with traffic to make it crash – on the Serious and Organised Crime Agency website.