Problems can arise with legal acceptance of records as evidence if appropriate business practices, including standards and procedures, are not followed in creating and maintaining records. To mitigate this risk and to ensure your business information is well managed, your agency should ensure that records management requirements are met:
- its records management practices and systems are reliable
- the records created and maintained in those systems are authentic
- its business and records management systems are supported by business practices that will withstand scrutiny.
In addition, your records need to be easily located for business purposes, including the ability to document and execute agreed searches to comply with subpoenas, orders of discovery and FOI requests.
Evidence law prescribes the rules of evidence and affects the admissibility of documentary evidence and the weight of that evidence, including digital records and copies.
Case law has implications for records destruction and possible legal proceedings and agency requirements to retain and maintain records in an accessible form if the agency knows that it is reasonably likely that the record may be needed as evidence in a current or future legal proceeding.
This revision of Commonwealth Records in Evidence (pdf, 438kb) takes account of significant legal developments affecting records as evidence since the previous version was published in 2005. The NAA wishes to acknowledge the contribution of the Attorney-General's Department, the Australian Government Solicitor and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner in the revision of this advice.
The advice provided in this publication is general in nature. The issues surrounding Commonwealth records in evidence are complex and agencies should seek legal advice for their specific circumstances.