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17 Digital Evidence & Elec. Signature L. Rev. i (2020)

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EDITORIAL


The momentous   attempt by the group of ex-sub-
postmasters and sub-postmistresses that formed The
Justice For Subpostmasters Alliance to achieve justice
against Post Office Limited in prosecuting numerous
sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses for offences
alleged to have been committed when  using the
Horizon IT system, reached a climax in 2019 with the
second trial, that of Bates v The Post Office Ltd (No 6:
Horizon Issues) Rev 1 [2019] EWHC 3408 (QB). Fraser J
determined  that the Horizon software system was
faulty, and the software errors were such that it was
possible that the errors in the software led to the false
assumption  by the Post Office that many sub-
postmasters and sub-postmistresses were guilty of
criminal offences of theft and fraud. A third trial was
to take place to consider a number of specific cases to
establish whether the allegations made by the Post
Office were true or caused by software failures.
Before the judgment was released, the Post Office
finally decided to negotiate a settlement with the sub-
postmasters and sub-postmistresses. An out of court
settlement was subsequently agreed. The matter is
now  before the Court of Appeal, where the
convictions of a number of sub-postmasters and sub-
postmistresses will be considered, including that of
Seema  Misra (the journal published the transcript of
her trial in 2015). Interestingly, this appears to be the
only transcript available - purchased by the editor
with the permission of the trial judge, and published
with the agreement of Seema Misra. We look forward
to the decisions of the Court of Appeal, and will report
more  fully on this in due course.

The lessons of this debacle are obvious. It is no longer
appropriate for judges and lawyers to be ignorant of
the topic of electronic evidence. This journal has
called for the education of the profession in 2010
(editorial), and commissioned two articles by
independent  people to consider whether it was
imperative that the topic should be compulsory:

         Denise H. Wong, 'Educating for the
         future: teaching evidence in the
         technological age', 10 Digital


         Evidence and Electronic Signature
         Law Review  (2013) 16 - 24

         Deveral Capps, 'Fitting a quart into
         a pint pot: the legal curriculum and
         meeting the requirements of
         practice', 10 Digital Evidence and
         Electronic Signature Law Review
         (2013) 23 - 28

Lawyers that qualify in 2020 will not be taught
electronic evidence, yet as soon as they are certified
as being fit to practice, the vast majority of the
evidence they deal with will be evidence in electronic
form.

Is it appropriate for would-be lawyers and currently
practising lawyers and judges not to be taught this
topic? Can it be said that a lawyer is qualified to
practice without being taught this topic?



        © Stephen Mason  and Allison Stanfield, 2020



Finally, we thank Dr Jean-Baptiste Maillart, George L.
Paul, P. C. and Dr Giuseppe Vaciago for taking part in
the editorial board over the years.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License


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