ICT experts crucial role in courts Under Act 772

0

By Abubakari Saddiq ADAMS

With the full enforcement of the National Electronic Transactions Act, 2008 (Act 772), Ghanaian courts will increasingly rely on ICT experts to provide critical insights into electronic evidence. This development underscores the growing importance of technology in legal proceedings and highlights the need for expert opinions in verifying and analyzing digital data.

Act 772, which was enacted to provide legal recognition for electronic records and communications, stipulates that electronic evidence is admissible in court. As a result, ICT experts have become invaluable in interpreting and authenticating this evidence, ensuring its reliability and accuracy in legal contexts.

The Role of ICT Experts

ICT experts are called upon to analyze various forms of electronic evidence, including emails, digital contracts, electronic signatures, and data logs. Their role is crucial in verifying the authenticity of digital documents and ensuring that they have not been tampered with.

The integration of electronic evidence into our legal system requires specialized knowledge and skills, as members of ICT professional groups such as Institute of ICT Professionals Ghana (IIPGH) members. Our task is to provide objective and scientifically-based opinions that help the court understand the technical aspects of the evidence.

Procedure for Providing Expert Opinions

  1. Understanding Case Requirements: ICT experts begin by receiving a detailed briefing from the legal team about the specific issues and evidence involved in the case.
  2. Data Collection and Analysis: They gather all necessary electronic data and use sophisticated tools to analyze it. This includes examining metadata, encryption, and digital signatures to verify authenticity.
  3. Formulating Opinions: Based on their analysis, experts form an opinion on the validity and relevance of the electronic evidence. This opinion must be objective and supported by clear, documented findings.
  4. Preparing Reports: Experts then prepare detailed reports that outline their methodology, findings, and conclusions. These reports must be structured, clear, and accessible to non-technical readers.
  5. Court Testimony: ICT experts may be called to testify in court, where they explain their findings and answer questions from both the legal teams and the judge. Clear communication is essential to ensure that the technical details are understood by all parties.

Challenges

While the integration of electronic evidence streamlines legal processes, it also presents several challenges, particularly in ensuring the security and authenticity of digital data. Here are some of the key challenges:

  1. Cybersecurity Threats

The risk of cyberattacks and unauthorized access to electronic evidence is a significant concern. Ensuring the security of digital data against hacking, malware, and other cyber threats is paramount.

  1. Data Integrity and Authenticity

Ensuring that digital evidence has not been altered or tampered with is critical. The integrity of the data must be maintained from the point of collection to its presentation in court.

  1. Technical Complexity

The technical nature of digital evidence can be challenging for legal professionals who may not have a background in ICT.

  1. Standardization of Procedures

The lack of standardized procedures for handling and presenting digital evidence can lead to inconsistencies and challenges in court.

 

  1. Resource Limitations

Limited access to advanced forensic tools and technology can hinder the effective analysis of digital evidence.

  1. Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Effective handling of digital evidence often requires collaboration between legal professionals and ICT experts.

Key Aspects of Ensuring Authenticity

  1. Verification of Digital Signatures

Digital signatures play a vital role in verifying the authenticity of electronic documents. A digital signature provides a way to ensure that a document has not been altered after it was signed and that the signature is indeed from the stated signer. This is achieved through cryptographic methods that create a unique signature based on the document’s contents and the signer’s private key.

  1. Examination of Metadata

Metadata, or data about data, provides crucial information about the digital document, such as the date and time it was created, modified, and accessed. ICT experts analyze metadata to verify the document’s history and ensure there has been no unauthorized alteration.

  1. Use of Digital Forensics

Digital forensics involves the use of specialized techniques and tools to recover, analyze, and preserve electronic evidence. This process helps in uncovering any attempts to tamper with digital evidence and ensures that the evidence is maintained in its original state.

  1. Chain of Custody

Maintaining a clear and documented chain of custody is essential for digital evidence. This involves keeping detailed records of who has handled the evidence, how it has been stored, and any transfers between parties. A well-maintained chain of custody helps prevent tampering and ensures that the evidence remains authentic from the time it is collected to its presentation in court.

  1. Authentication Protocols

Courts and legal professionals use specific protocols and standards to authenticate digital evidence. These may include verifying the use of secure communication channels, ensuring data encryption, and using trusted certification authorities to validate digital signatures.

Impact on the Legal System

The ability to admit electronic evidence has significantly enhanced the efficiency and transparency of the legal process in Ghana. Legal professionals can now leverage digital records to support their cases, reducing reliance on paper documents and speeding up proceedings.

This is a significant step forward for our judicial system, the recognition of electronic evidence aligns our legal framework with global standards and ensures that we are keeping pace with technological advancements.

As Ghana continues to embrace digital technology, the role of ICT experts in the legal system is set to become even more vital. Their expertise not only helps to authenticate electronic evidence but also contributes to the overall modernization and efficiency of the judicial process.

Conclusion

The enforcement of the National Electronic Transactions Act, 2008 (Act 772) and the admissibility of electronic evidence in Ghanaian courts mark a significant milestone in the modernization of the legal system. This development underscores the critical role of ICT experts in ensuring the authenticity and reliability of digital evidence. By addressing the challenges through comprehensive training programs and the implementation of robust protocols, the judicial system in Ghana will be better equipped to handle the complexities of the digital age.

Ensuring the authenticity of digital evidence involves a multifaceted approach, including the verification of digital signatures, examination of metadata, the use of digital forensics, maintaining a clear chain of custody, and adhering to strict authentication protocols. The expertise of ICT professionals is essential in these processes, providing the courts with credible and scientifically backed analyses that support informed decision-making.

While challenges such as cybersecurity threats, data integrity issues, technical complexity, the need for standardized procedures, resource limitations, and the necessity for interdisciplinary collaboration persist.

As Ghana continues to embrace digital technology, the focus on authenticating digital evidence will remain a cornerstone of legal proceedings, ensuring justice is served with the highest standards of reliability and transparency. The integration of electronic evidence not only enhances the efficiency and transparency of legal processes but also aligns Ghana’s judicial system with global standards, paving the way for a more modern and accessible legal framework.

The author is a  Business IT & IT Legal Consultant | IT Governance Advocate | Member, IIPGH

For comments, please contact +233246173369/+233504634180 or email [email protected]

Leave a Reply