Government wrong to pass the buck on computer evidence reform


The reaction from the govt to Labour MP Kevan Jones about the presumption of dependability of computer proof is very disappointing. This looks like the government is getting time and passing the buck to Wyn Williams, who is working the Put up Place of work inquiry. The case for reforming the presumption is frustrating and the government should really have the take care of to initiate reform with out waiting around to see what Williams says.

This is not just about the Post Office’s Horizon technique. The presumption betrays a dreadful naivety on the aspect of the authorized program about the difficulties of operating with fallible, complex application methods.

The strongest justification, in point the only actual one, for retaining the presumption is that it is a pragmatic response to the complications included in proving the dependability of a complex computer system method. The presumption, hence, is a vital trade-off, balancing the complications of building categorical statements about system behaviour versus the need for courts to work proficiently. It is an evidential presumption, the argument goes, that can be rebutted rather than a rigid rule.

However, this presumes that the social gathering developing the proof offers total disclosure of facts that would permit the other celebration to problem the evidence. It also presumes that the other bash has the economic and technical assets to mount a effective problem. Equally presumptions ended up revealed to be baseless in the Submit Office environment scandal. The Submit Place of work withheld relevant information and facts and the defendants were being denied any usually means of hard the evidence. It is not a pragmatic reaction, it is cynical. It purchases some benefit for the courts at the cost of justice, and at a dreadful human expense.

I agree that it would be impractical only to scrap the presumption and call for the providers of computer proof to demonstrate its reliability in every single circumstance. What would be extra practical would be a two-stage method necessitating evidence providers to supply facts about identified mistakes and to display that they are in command of their techniques, ie that they have made, managed and audited them responsibly. If they can not display the court docket this kind of proof, then they really should be essential to prove the reliability of any personal computer evidence they offer you.

When I began as an IT auditor, I was taught the auditor’s motto, “Don’t inform me – clearly show me”, ie never present me bland reassurance that all the things is Alright – demonstrate me the proof. Companies ought to be well prepared to show that they are in manage of their IT.

I never see how it is appropriate that corporations can take care of their IT incompetently, as was the situation with the Write-up Business office and Fujitsu, and continue to hope the courts to acknowledge that their pc proof is 100% trusted.

Final calendar year, I contributed to a paper submitted to the Ministry of Justice which argued for these a two-stage reform. The deficiency of good reaction has been incredibly disappointing.

It is time for the federal government to explain to the cowboys that the Wild West of IT has to be cleaned up. I’m absolutely sure Wyn Williams would not want to be termed the new sheriff in city, but I doubt if the governing administration has the take care of to choose on that work with out some major prompting.

If this presumption is not reformed, the Write-up Business office scandal will not be the past. It is prolonged past time to act, and it is extremely disappointing to see the federal government participating in for time.

James Christie is an impartial consultant, an IT professional with extensive expertise of program improvement, IT audit, screening and safety management in the IT outsourcing marketplace likely again to the 1980s.