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Delegates at the expert working group on electronic evidence

Major step forward for Commonwealth’s work on cyber laws

20 September 2019

An expert working group discussing the future role of electronic evidence in prosecutions has held its first meeting.

The event is a major step in the Commonwealth’s Cyber Capability programme delivering the project Strengthening of International Co-operation in Cybercrime investigations.

The initiative is designed to support implementation of the Commonwealth Cyber Declaration agreed by heads of government in London last year.

As well as boosting collaboration among a network of countries, the purpose is to enhance the efficiency of prosecutions involving electronic evidence, including where that evidence is acquired from abroad.

Central to the work is a review of the Commonwealth’s Model Law on Electronic Evidence, which is now 17 years old. Technological developments along with approaches and practices for dealing with electronic evidence in legal proceedings have massively moved on since 2002.

The expert working group, which met for two days at Marlborough House in London, was tasked with making recommendations for possible amendments and creating new provisions to ensure the model law is relevant and fit for purpose.

High-level lawmakers and experts, including an attorney general and director of public prosecutions, attended from across the Commonwealth, bringing a wealth of experience and perspectives to the discussion. Among the countries represented were Fiji, Tonga, Australia, Jamaica, the United Kingdom, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, The Gambia, Botswana, the Seychelles and Singapore.

Participants shared information and knowledge around the latest developments in their countries, as well as challenges and good practice in the implementation of laws on electronic evidence.

A series of recommendations will now go before Commonwealth Law Ministers who will be meeting in Sri Lanka in November.

Senior director of the Commonwealth’s Governance and Peace directorate, Katalaina Sapolu, said: “At the core of the Commonwealth’s work is the development of tools and models which inform member countries and assist them in ensuring their legal framework reflects the latest developments.

“Electronic evidence has become increasingly present in court proceedings and the time is right to have another look at the Model Law in order to ensure its relevance.”