Update to Computer Evidence Law in South Australia

The Evidence (Records and Documents) Act 2015 (SA) came into effect on 4 April 2016. The Act updates South Australia’s law for the use of electronic messages and records.

The Act originated with a request from the South Australian Attorney-General, the Hon John Rau MP, to the independent South Australian Law Reform Institute based at the University of Adelaide, to report on whether and to what extent South Australian evidence law should be modernised to deal with new technologies. Consultation began with the release of an Issues Paper, Computer says no, in May 2012. The Institute’s Final Report, Modernisation of South Australian evidence law to deal with new technologies, was released in October 2012.

The Final Report noted that the Evidence Act 1929 (SA) had not been adequately updated to reflect modern technological methods of electronic communication and record keeping and that an important aspect of modernising South Australian evidence law to deal with new technologies was to make the law clear and easy to use and, if possible, able to accommodate future changes in technology which society had not yet contemplated. The Report made a number of recommendations to update South Australia’s law for the admissibility and use of electronic and computer records and messages in court proceedings.

The Evidence (Records and Documents) Amendment Act 2015 was subsequently passed by the South Australian Parliament with all party support to implement the Institute’s recommendations. The new Act amends the Evidence Act 1929 (SA) to reflect modern technological modes of communication and generation of material. The amendments to the Evidence Act 1929 ‘will contribute to the efficient conduct of litigation in South Australia by facilitating the proof and admissibility of electronic communications and computer-generated evidence that is consistent with contemporary views of its use, accuracy and reliability…This Bill will provide South Australia with a workable and effective framework for the use in court proceedings of this type of evidence and will bring South Australia in line with the law in other jurisdictions’ (South Australia, Parliamentary Debates, House of Assembly, 23 September 2015, 2677-2678 (Hon John Rau)).

The Institute notes the valuable contribution of the late Helen Wighton, Deputy Director of the Institute, who, with support from the Institute‘s Evidence Sub-Committee, prepared both the Issues Paper and the Final Report.

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