Stephen Mason, a leading expert on electronic evidence and 2022/23 IALS Associate Research Fellow has co-authored a letter published in The Times relating to the results of the1997 Law Commission formulation on the reliability of computer evidence.

Stephen and his associate Martyn Thomas, Emeritus Professor of IT, Gresham College write:

In 1999 Parliament changed the law so that courts presume that evidence derived from a computer is reliable. The presumption effectively ‘magics’ computer output into truth. This presumption is absurd, of course, because all complex software contains many errors. ... To stand any chance of challenging computer evidence, a defendant must be given appropriate disclosure of relevant evidence of the system. It is a poor excuse to claim it is expensive to provide routine information relating to computer bugs. The fairness of legal proceedings should be paramount.

Full text of the letter and related news can be found here on the University of London Press website.

Stephen is co-author of Electronic Evldence and Electronic Signatures (5th ed) published by the University of London Press, and author of The Signature in Law (2022).  He is also a former editor of the Digital Evidence and Electronic Signature Law Review (DEESLR).

Stephen was one of the experts who contributed to recommendations for an update to the law on computer evidence in 2020 ('Update law on computer evidence to avoid Horizon repeat, ministers urged', The Guardian, 12/01/2024).  

For those interested, the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry website contains further information including access to reports, evidence and key documents.