July 4, 2011


There may be those who think that a blog post on the BAILII appeal for funds and a short contribution from me to the BAILII appeal article at p 5 are more than enough. But I don’t think I have said enough. 

On top of its usefulness to me personally, which I mention in the article on p 5, I believe passionately in its fundamental and too little trumpeted role as an essential source for the citizen. It has an important role in underpinning the self-litigant’s research, overriding the cacophony of misreporting of judgments that the press seem to regard as a competitive sport and archiving and making available the collected wisdom of judges to those who want to be well informed.  

I understand perfectly that the most likely funders are lawyers and that emphasising the value of BAILI to lawyers naturally flows from that. But the value to lawyers goes way beyond their actual use of it. It is true that I have reviewed BAILII’s value to me over the last 10 years and felt bound too make a small personal contribution to the appeal; if you are reading this, the odds are that you too use its services and have done so for a number of years and you might well feel inclined to contribute too. But lawyers should not really be funding it out of a sense of personal obligation – a quid pro quo. We all have a wider interest in BAILII than any that arises from self-interest. It is a necessity because of its wider role in society and lawyers have a laudable and natural desire to see the law better understood and better appreciated. 

There was a slightly poignant moment for me when reading Richard Harrison’ piece entitled ‘Retrospective’ (see p 6). I had only just then heard about BAILII’s financial plight and Richard refers in his piece to a report on the ‘inspirational’ meeting that led to the establishment of BAILII. Those at the meeting who were inspired were not motivated by the thought that they might find access to judgments handy in their work. The driving forces were accessibility, openness, value to the public and citizens’ rights not its mere utility to lawyers. 

BAILII’s demise is unthinkable because, whatever the economic climate, there are surely still too many lawyers (and others) who care about those things. 

Digital Evidence 

Tucked away near the back of this issue is a fine article by Stephen Mason about digital evidence. I don’t think I will spoil the impact of his piece in any way by revealing that he closes that article with a plea for better education for lawyers on the subject of digital evidence: ‘It is incumbent upon those teaching evidence to would-be lawyers to ensure the technical matters pertaining to digital evidence, including its characteristics, are included in the curriculum – not in the future, but now.’ 

I hope that Stephen will not be insulted when I say that he has banged on about this on many occasions before. But he is stuck with banging on about it because nobody seems to be doing anything about it. Being right and not being listened too is a real curse.  

And if would-be lawyers need this sort of education, what about the real ones? 

I would like to set you and me a challenge. My challenge is to find and run articles in the magazine that do offer ‘education’ on the subject to you the readers. Your challenge is to read them and follow the leads they raise so as to improve your working understanding of digital evidence – and then spread the word with colleagues outside the rarefied atmosphere of IT departments. Because digital evidence is now just as important for them too.