HC Deb 23 October 1968 vol 770 cc1403-6

Admissibility of statements produced by computers

Lords Amendment No. 11: In page 10, line 15, after Clause 12 insert new Clause "A". A.—(1) In any civil proceedings a statement contained in a document produced by a computer shall, subject to the provisions of section (Procedure) of this Act, be admissable as evidence of any fact stated therein of which direct oral evidence would be admissable, if it it is shown that the conditions mentioned in subsection 2 of this section are satisfied in relation to the statement and computer in question. (2) The said conditions are—

  1. (a) that the document containing the statement was produced by the computer during a period over which the computer was used regularly to store or process information for the purposes of any activities regularly carried on over that period by any person;
  2. (b) that over that period there was regularly supplied to the computer in the ordinary course of those activities information of the kind contained in the statement or of the kind from which the information so contained is derived;
  3. (c) that throughout the material part of that period, the computer was operating properly or, if not, that any respect in which it was not operating properly or was out of operation during that part of that period was not such as to affect the production of the document or the accuracy of its contents; and
  4. (d) that the information contained in the statement reproduces or is derived from in- 1404 formation supplied to the computer in the ordinary course of those activities.
(3) Where over a period the function of storing or processing information for the purposes of any activities regularly carried on over that period as mentioned in subsection (2)(a) of this section was regularly performed by computers, whether—
  1. (a) by a combination of computers operating over that period; or
  2. (b) by different computers operating in succession over that period; or
  3. (c) by different combinations of computers operating in succession over that period; or
  4. (d) in any other manner involving the successive operation over that period, in whatever order, of one or more computers and one or more combinations of computers,
all the computers used for that purpose during that period shall be treated for the purposes of this Part of this Act as constituting a single computer; and references in this Part of this Act to a computer shall be construed accordingly.
(4) In any civil proceedings where it is desired to give a statement in evidence by virtue of this section, a certificate doing any of the following things, that is to say—
  1. (a) identifying the document containing the statement and describing the manner in which it was produced;
  2. (b) giving such particulars of any device involved in the production of that document as may be appropriate for the purpose of showing that the document was produced by a computer;
  3. (c) dealing with any of the matters to which the conditions mentioned in subsection (2) of this section relate,
and purporting to be signed by a person occupying a responsible position in relation to the operation of the relevant device or the management of the relevant activities (whichever is appropriate) shall, subject to the provisions of section (Procedure) of this Act, be sufficient evidence of any matter stated in the certificate; and—
  1. (i) for the purposes of this subsection it shall be sufficient for a matter to be stated to the best of the knowledge and belief of the person stating it;
  2. (ii) any such certificate as aforesaid shall be lodged within such time as may be prescribed, not being later than the expiry of the time prescribed for the furnishing of information under section (Procedure) (3) of this Act;
  3. (iii) any person lodging such a certificate as aforesaid shall, within the time prescribed under paragraph (ii) of this subsection, send a copy thereof to every other party to the proceedings.
(5) For the purposes of this Part of this Act—
  1. (a) information shall be taken to be supplied to a computer if it is supplied thereto in any appropriate form and whether it is so supplied directly or (with or without human intervention) by means of any appropriate equipment;
  2. 1405
  3. (b) where, in the course of any activities carried on by any person, information is supplied with a view to its being stored or processed for the purposes of those activities by a computer operated otherwise than in the course of those activities, that information, if duly supplied to that computer, shall be taken to be supplied to it in the course of those activities;
  4. (c) a document shall be taken to have been produced by a computer whether it was produced by it directly or (with or without human intervention) by means of any appropriate equipment.
(6) Subject to subsection (3) of this section, in this Part of this Act "computer" means any device for storing and processing information, and any reference to information being derived from other information is a reference to is being derived therefrom by calculation, comparison or any other process.

Mr. Buchan

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

Mr. Speaker

With this Amendment, I suggest that we discuss Lords Amendment No. 12, in page 10, line 15, after the Amendment last inserted to insert new Clause "B"—Provisions supplementary to section (Admissibility of statements produced by computers).

Amendment No. 13, new Clause "C"—Procedure—Amendment No. 14, new Clause "D"—Amendment of section 7 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1966—Amendment No. 15, Amendment No. 16, Amendment No. 18, Amendment No. 19, Amendment No. 20, and Amendment No. 21.

Mr. Buchan

I know that this is a very complicated-looking swatch of print, but the matter at issue is simple, although the content may be complex.

Lords Amendments Nos. 11 to 14 introduce into the Bill four new Clauses dealing with the admissibility in civil cases of evidence in the form of documents produced by modern business methods. The other Amendments are consequential upon the new Clauses.

They introduce in the law of Scotland provision for the use in evidence before the civil courts of information produced by methods now in widespread use in business and elsewhere, such as computers and microfilm devices. This is not the introduction of any new principle, since there are already provisions in Scots law faciliating the introduction of business records in evidence.

These new Clauses should be regarded as an extension of the principle to cater for modern developments. Similar provisions are contained in the English Civil Evidence Act and were approved by the House earlier this year. I do not want to go into detail on the provisions but one of the important points at issue was that, after the Civil Evidence Act was passed, we received many approaches from the business world to the effect that businesses, especially large businesses operating throughout Great Britain, would not be able to take advantage of the provisions of that Act if they were in doubt about the position in Scotland.

In the circumstances, the Government thought that, if it were done, it were better to do it quickly. We regard this provision as necessary since obviously we could not continue the process of record-keeping for businesses in England and Wales only, but must ensure that they are usable in civil proceedings in Scotland as well.

Mr. Wylie

These Amendments are clearly desirable. It would be totally unacceptable in commerce to have two different provisions of the law of evidence within the United Kingdom concerning the application of computers and other modern devices.

But it seems incredible that something which, in principle, is so relatively simple should require such an enormous Amendment. I echo what was said in another place by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Reid. He commented: There must surely be something wrong with our methods of drafting if it takes five pages of close print to introduce what is apparently a simple Amendment of this kind … it seems to me to add point to the growing demand that the traditional style of drafting ought to be radically altered."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 13th June, 1968; Vol. 293, c. 288.] I do not suppose that anyone here who has taken the trouble to read these Amendments could possibly disagree with that sentiment.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendments agreed to.

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