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  • Debate on the Evidence (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to introduce significant reforms in the justice system, was suspended in the Senate, on January 23.
  • Minister of Justice, Senator the Hon. Mark Golding, explained that this was due to concerns raised by Senators on certain sections of the Bill.
  • The Justice Minister opened the debate on the Bill in December 2014. The legislation provides for a simpler procedure for the admissibility of expert reports, where the evidence of the expert is not in dispute.

Debate on the Evidence (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to introduce significant reforms in the justice system, was suspended in the Senate, on January 23.

Minister of Justice, Senator the Hon. Mark Golding, explained that this was due to concerns raised by Senators on certain sections of the Bill.

“I have listened to the points made in the debate and I want to consider further the point specifically in relation to the computer generated evidence and so I would ask that the debate be suspended until further notice,” he said.

The Justice Minister opened the debate on the Bill in December 2014. The legislation provides for a simpler procedure for the admissibility of expert reports, where the evidence of the expert is not in dispute.

The Bill further facilitates a modernized simpler procedure for the admissibility of computer generated evidence.

Continuing the debate, Government Senator, K.D. Knight, raised concern with Clause 31 G (1).

Clause 31 G (1) states that “where a document tendered to be admitted into evidence was produced by a computer, it shall be presumed, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that the computer was at all material times operating properly.”

“When this comes into being, one has to look not just at the provision, but what are the facilities that are available to an accused person to challenge this? I was in a case where we were challenging that and we had immense difficulty because the person who was doing the work on our behalf, he couldn’t even be classified as an expert,” Senator Knight said.

He further argued that even though similar provisions exist in other countries, “we have to understand what is happening in the environment from which we are plucking it.”

“So, while it is classified as this new trend, you can’t always join in a new trend if you don’t have a certain foundation and we don’t yet have the foundation to allow us to join in this new trend. I am not saying that the new trend is bad and we shouldn’t join it eventually, but right now it is going to be a blow to justice,” Mr. Knight argued.

“It is not so much that it is going to be harsh on some accused persons, but some accused persons, especially from a certain strata, are going to go to court and hear the word guilty pronounced and that word is pronounced merely because that accused person had not the wherewithal, neither personal nor statewise, to challenge the computer evidence, and an innocent person goes to prison,” he added.

For his part, Opposition Senator, Alexander Williams, welcomed the legislation, while noting that it seeks to, in some respects, “reduce that delay when you are dealing with evidence that is of a technical nature.”

Debate on the Bill was suspended until a date to be determined.

 

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