Sunday, August 13, 2006

Digital evidence for lawyers and IT professionals

New UNSW Law Building
On Friday I attended the first LawTechTalk seminar at UNSW:

The Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre at UNSW provides a focus for research, public interest advocacy and education on issues of law and policy concerning digital transactions in cyberspace. It is a Centre of the Faculty of Law at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

"Digital evidence: Issues for lawyers, judges and scholars, and what's coming over the horizon... Stephen Mason, Director of the Digital Evidence Research Programme, British
Institute of International and Comparative Law ... "
Stephen's work on e-evidence is equally applicable to IT professionals as lawyers. You can download the slides of the presentation and some of his papers from the event announcement.

This article briefly outlines the case law in relation to manuscript signatures in England and Wales, putting the concept of manuscript signatures into historical perspective from the point of view of the common law. A short outline of the international framework for electronic signatures will follow, and consideration will be given to the three main concepts adopted by politicians in the form of legislation from across the world. The forms of electronic will be set out, and a number of practical and evidential issues will be taken into account. Relevant case law is considered throughout the article.
From Electronic Signatures in Practice, Stephen Mason, Journal of High Technology Law (JHTL), Volume VI: 2006
Dr Alathea Foster is alleged to have attacked Julie Simpson after discovering a series of emails on her husband John Foster's computer. She is also said to have recounted her state of mind in diary entries which were today read out to the court. ...

From E-mail trail that led wife to husband's lover, Lewis Smith for Times Online, April 24, 2006

A woman who stabbed her husband's ex-lover 17 times has been cleared of attempted murder but jailed for causing grievous bodily harm.

Alethea Foster, 61, of Bromley, south London, stabbed Cambridge University student Julie Simpson when she learned of their 15-year affair via e-mails. ...
From Wife jailed for love rival attack, BBC, 5 May 2006

The e-Signature Law Journal brings news, articles, legal developments and case reports to academics, practitioners and the industry in relation to electronic signatures from across the world. The journal also seeks to include reports on technical advances, book reviews and a calendar of events and conferences.
From e-Signature Law Journal

One quibble I have is over the use of the term "electronic signature". The digital signature" uses a cryptographic process, whereas an "electronic signature" is just about any sort of mark in an electronic document.

A quick web search shows that the term "digital signature" is four times as common as "electronic signature". But there is so much room for confusion between the two it might be better to drop the term "electronic signature" and just call them "signatures". If it is an electronic document you can infer that some sot of electronic signature is meant. The more specific term "digital signature" could continue to be used to indicate the cryptographic sort. In any case the definition of a "signature" is not as universal and fixed as might be expected.

Perhaps there will be a meeting of minds between lawyers, records managers and IT people on digital evidence. The IT people have been approaching the same issues from the point of view of implementing record management systems and the standards they are required to comply with. This will likely meet the lawyers as well.

It looks like the same "if it prints like a document, it is an e-document" applies in the USA and the UK as well as in Australian law.

I do expert witness work for lawyers on IT matters and had a recent electronic evidence is done. Another area of e-evidence is podcasting.

ps: One problem is that Stephen's British Institute of International and Comparative Law needs to fix their fellows page, as the link to his details is broken. Also UNSW needs a simpler map to find their new law building.

The building boasts two "Harvard style lecture theatres". These are horseshoe shaped rooms like miniature parliamentary debating chamber. Perhaps this is why so many lawyers feel at home in politics. ;-)

pps: I was little worried when Stephen mentioned that he used to be in bomb disposal. I thought this might be a reference to my carrying into ten seminar a bloc of what looked like 10kg of plastic explosive (it was actually pottery clay, but that is another story).



Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link or bookmark with Digg,, Newsvine or News Feed

<< Home