A Vatican court has heard how Pope Benedict's former butler, who has been jailed for stealing papal documents, refused to allow technicians to check his computer for six years before his arrest.

The detail emerged at the first hearing of the trial of Claudio Sciarpelletti, a computer expert who is charged with aiding and abetting former butler Paolo Gabriele.

Lawyers told the court Gabriele refused to have his computer maintained or updated by technicians.

Gabriele was convicted of aggravated theft at a separate trial last month. 

He was sentenced to 18 months in jail for stealing sensitive papal documents and leaking them to the media. 

Some of the confidential information was kept on his computer.

Vatican officials say Mr Sciarpelletti's role was marginal and expect the trial to be speedier than that of the butler, which lasted only four sessions.

After preliminary arguments, the trial was adjourned until Saturday.

Gabriele, one of the pope's closest household assistants, admitted leaking the documents in what he said was an attempt to help disclose corruption and "evil" in the headquarters of the 1.2 billion-member faith.

The leaks unleashed one of the biggest crises of Pope Benedict's papacy.

It embarrassed the Vatican as it struggled to overcome a string of child sexual abuse scandals involving clerics, and mismanagement at its bank.