Legal admissibility and evidential weight of electronic information

Press release - 2 May 2008

  • Does your organization have a policy for the safeguarding of all types of electronic information?
  • Does your organization have a procedure in place for the electronic scanning of paper documents?
  • Does your organization’s information management policy cover the storage and transmission of electronic information in encrypted form?
  • Does your organization have an established procedure for the use of digital signatures?

These and many other issues are covered in a new draft standard, published by BSI British Standards. BS 10008 addresses issues relating to the authenticity and integrity of electronic information which could potentially be used as evidence.

Legal admissibility concerns whether or not a piece of evidence would be accepted by a court of law. To ensure the admissibility, information needs to be managed by a secure system throughout its lifetime (which can be for many years). Where doubt can be placed on the information, the evidential weight may well be reduced, potentially harming the legal case.

BS 10008 ensures that any electronic information required as evidence of a business transaction is afforded the maximum evidential weight. The process is based on the specification of requirements for planning, implementing, operating, monitoring and improving the organization’s information management systems. Specific areas covered by the standard include:

  • The management of electronic information over long periods, including through technology changes, where information integrity is a vital business
  • How to manage the various risks associated with electronic information
  • How to demonstrate the authenticity of electronic information
  • The management of quality issues related to document scanning processes.
  • The provision of a full life history of an electronic object throughout its life.

Alan Shipman, chairman of the BSI committee responsible for the development of BS 10008, said: “The new draft standard is an important step in ensuring the admissibility of evidence in the UK. The draft has been developed by a wide range of experts in the field of document management as a specification of good practice. We welcome comments from anyone for whom this topic is of interest, including business managers, records managers, compliance officers and legal advisors.”

BS 10008 is due to be published in September 2008.