Legal Admissibility of electronic documents

For many years, the British Standards Institution (BSi) have published a code of practice (PD0008 and then BIP0008) for ‘Evidential weight and legal admissibility of electronic information’ – a document that I’ve had on my desk for many years. In the absence of clear statutory rules, this became the de-facto standard for organisations who wanted to dispense with paper records, but wanted to ensure that digital images of original documents were going to be acceptable in any future regulatory inspections, court cases, etc.

Many organisations and Government bodies reference the BSi code when defining what they consider to be acceptable practice for ‘paperless office’ operations where no original paper copies were to be kept. Despite this, it remained only a code of practice, and there remains a great deal of concern (much of it unfounded) that eliminating paper creates some kind of legal or regulatory risk to the organisation.

In November last year, the BSi finally turned this document into a formal British Standard: BS 10008:2008. There’s not much difference in terms of the actual processes and recommendations, but it is now organised in a way that makes it much easier to validate your own systems as compliant or not.

This development should go a long way to encouraging adoption of document management systems in the more risk averse areas of business (coughAccountantscough).