Ireland Law Reform Commission Consultation Paper on Documentary and Electronic Evidence
The paper makes wide-ranging provisional recommendations for reform of the law on the admissibility of manually-generated and electronic documents and records in both civil and criminal trials. The recommendations are aimed at ensuring more efficient court procedures.
The document adopts a strong comparative perspective, looking at the situation in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States for many of the issues under consideration.
Among the main proposals:
- there should be a general presumption (subject to certain procedural safeguards) that documents and records, whether manual or electronic, should be admissible in civil and criminal cases. Currently, witnesses are often required to turn up on the morning of a court hearing in case they are needed to authenticate documents.
- the law on documentary evidence should be technology-neutral, and there should in general be no difference between the rules concerning manual or computer generated documents and records.
- the law should provide that, in general, documentary evidence can be admitted through a person who can demonstrate the integrity of the storage system used (including the storage system for electronic records) even if that person did not originally generate the documentary record
- the Commission recommends that detailed, smart economy, technical standards for using and verifying electronic and digital signatures should be agreed by an expert working group. These would apply to specific commercial transactions, including those involving the State.
- for recordings such as videos or CCTV, it should be clarified that any defects in their quality should not rule them inadmissible but should be simply a question of the weight to be given to the recording