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Northumbria Law School research discussed in Shanghai

29th November 2021

Academics from Northumbria Law School who are members of an international research project – Police Detectives on the TOR network – recently gave on-line presentations about their research to Chinese judges and academics.

Professor Tim J Wilson and the Deputy Head of the Law School, Adam Jackson, were invited to join the Shanghai Judicial Forum on Frontier Issues 2021 to discuss digital evidence.

This conference organised jointly by Shanghai No.1 Intermediate People's Court and Shanghai University of Finance and Economics Law School was held on 22 October 2021. Other international speakers were Australian and American judges, and academics from Kyoto and Queen Mary University of London law schools.

Adam Jackson discussed how in England and Wales the criminal courts oversee whether investigatory powers have been properly authorised and evidence has been gathered fairly. In doing so he explained how independent and now judicially led governance of digital surveillance and covert human intelligence was strengthened as surveillance and evidence captured in cyber space became increasingly important.

Problems arising from the increased complexity and volume of digital evidence, however, had highlighted to Parliament and the media long-standing deficiencies in legal practice, especially over disclosure rules that should protect the accused person’s right to a fair trial. He had also found echoes of earlier problems with ‘traditional’ forensics: the difficulties the courts sometimes encounter when determining the admissibility of scientific expert evidence.

Professor Wilson noted that the exponential increase in cybercrime had increased the need for international criminal justice cooperation. Where existing cooperation models had been proven to be effective and robust, however, he counselled against seeking unnecessary changes to simply reflect subsequent changes in the volume and significance of cybercrime and digital evidence. He argued that the resilience of effective arrangements in the face of major changes could be seen from how the UK Government had accepted that EU-UK judicial and police cooperation after Brexit depended on its continued acceptance of the foundational principles and modalities of the EU arrangements for cross-border legal assistance.

He explained that the strength of the EU model is in how it had evolved as a holistic structure, including its foundational normative or human rights principles, the scope for cooperation to commence with offence identification and end with penal sanctions/rehabilitation, a flexible interface with widely varied national legal systems, and independent - especially judicial - scrutiny and governance.

Such an international event results in the extensive sharing of news, ideas and knowledge. The two Northumbria Law School academics were particularly interested in what Chinese judges and academics said about congruence between the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and a Chinese civil jurisdiction data protection law enacted this year and the approach taken by Chinese courts in determining the authenticity of electronic data before effectively admitting it as evidence.

A recording of Adam Jackson’s presentation can be watched here and Professor Wilson’s here.

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