Can you crack the ‘Smithy Code’?

British judge who handed down ruling in <i>The Da Vinci Code</i> copyright case has encrypted his own secret code into the judgment

Who says judges don’t have a sense of humour?

The British judge who handed down the ruling in the recent copyright infringement case involving Dan Brown’s bestselling book The Da Vinci Code has put his own secret code into his judgment.

Justice Peter Smith of the High Court handed down his decision in the case on April 7, ruling Brown’s fictional work did not steal from the 1982 non-fiction book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.

According to an Associated Press report, lawyers digesting the decision quickly noticed some oddities in the ruling. Letters in the middle of words appeared to be randomly italicized. The italicized letters in the first seven paragraphs spell out “Smithy Code,” a play on the judge’s name.

Justice Smith has admitted hiding a code in the ruling, and said he would likely acknowledge it if someone deciphered it — something he expects to happen because the code isn’t all that sophisticated.

Dan Tench, a lawyer with Olswang, a London law firm, told the AP that he noticed the code when he spotted the striking italicized script in an online copy of the ruling.

“To encrypt a message in this manner, in a High Court judgment no less? It’s out there,” said Tench. “I think he was getting into the spirit of the thing. It doesn’t take away from the validity of the judgment. He was just having a bit of fun.”

Can you crack the code?

Check out the full judgment and see if you can spot and break the code.

Update: ‘Smithy Code’ cracked

It didn’t take long to crack the code Justice Peter Smith’s code.

London lawyer Dan Tench and The Times newspaper both claimed to have cracked the code, and Justice Smith confirmed they were correct.

The italicized letters in the judgment (link above) read, in order:


The random sampling of letters are meaningless until one starts thinking of The Da Vinci Code. In that book, the Fibonacci sequence — a mathematical sequence of numbers — plays a major part. The sequence, that involves adding a number to the two numbers before, goes 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34 and so on. Using the Fibonacci sequence and applying it to the alphabet and then putting the letters in order reveals the judge’s code. It reads:

“Jackie Fisher who are you Dreadnought”

Jackie Fisher is a 19th-century British admiral that Justice Smith is a big fan of and the Dreadnought was the British navy’s first modern warship, launched almost exactly 100 years before the start of the trial.

In a statement, Justice Fisher said it took him about 40 minutes to create the code and an equal amount of time to highlight the text throughout his decision.

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