Electronic Evidence Second Edition

Stephen Mason, Barrister, with a team of international contributors
Publisher LexisNexis. Price: £178.21
ISBN/ISSN: 9781405749121. April 2010

Paper is terribly last millennium. Relevant material now regularly exists on servers, laptops, mobile telephones and a whole variety of gadgets. Pressure for electronic service and presentation of cases is coming from a variety of sources, such as the CPS’ digital drive starting this April. For counsel to advise properly, there is a need to understand the workings of these little black boxes, not only so that challenges can be made but also so that such technology can be used to best present one’s case.

Stephen Mason’s book is a wide-sweeping work that seeks to provide a deeper understanding of the issues involved for all aspects of electronic evidence.

Sensibly, it starts with general terms and the sources of digital evidence. The explanations on basics in computing are welcome and thankfully jargon free. No doubt due to the rapid changes in this world, it does not claim to be a comprehensive review of the technologies.

The absence of specific references to social networking and to tablet computing is a shame given their ubiquity and ever increasing use as a source of evidence. Such a point is minor, however, given the true strength of this book. The rebuttable presumption of a properly functioning computer is one in which we all be familiar. Professor Tapper’s suggestion that this is a “rash assumption in relation to such sophisticated devices, with so much potential error, as computers” is quoted with approval. Why this is the case and what one should do about it is fully addressed.

Issues of reliability, authenticity and quality are dealt with succinctly and elegantly. Mason gives a thorough guide not only on how to recognise whether there is a need to go beyond the face value of the evidence, but also authoritatively on the steps needed to mount a proper challenge.

Who knows what devices we can’t live without will exist in the near future. What is certain is that the need to understand electronic evidence thoroughly is going to become more important. Mason’s book is a valuable first step to that goal.

Neil Ross, 15 New bridge Street