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Legal admissibility

This article was written by Alan Shipman for Trade Scanners

Alan Shipman is the author of the British Standards Institute BIP 0008

Document management legal admissibility

If I scan my documents, are the images legally admissible? Can I destroy the paper originals?

Are my scanned documents legally admissible - Yes!

Documentary evidence will always be accepted by a court or other legal body.

Will they be trusted?

This will depend upon the specific circumstances.

  • Is it likely that the authenticity of the document might be challenged?
  • Can you show that your scanned copy is a 'true copy' of the original paper document?

Like any evidence brought before a court, challenges might be made. You need to be ready to respond to these challenges.

Can I destroy the paper originals?

Yes, if you believe that you can answer any challenges to authenticity that might arise.

How can you do this - implement BIP 0008, the BSI Code of Practice for Legal Admissibility and Evidential Weight of Information Stored Electronically.

What are the critical issues in this implementation?

  • Implement an approved information management policy - to demonstrate your normal working principles;
  • Have a good security management system;
  • Agree with external regulators and auditors that electronic working is acceptable;
  • Document your document management procedures, which conform to the good practice guidance in BIP 0008;
  • Document your technology systems and configurations;
  • Create and retain adequate and reliable audit trails.

Some further questions answered:

Do I need to retain original documents that have been signed?

It is not usually necessary if you have good procedures that enable you to demonstrate "beyond reasonable doubt" that the original document had been appropriately signed, even though you do not hold the original.

You may need permission from external regulators and auditors who currently expect to access your paper records. Compliance with good practice makes such permissions easier to obtain.

Are there risks involved when destroying original document?

There are always risks when retaining only copies of documents. Are they 'true copies'? But then, there are significant advantages in retaining information in an electronic form, when compared with paper retention. Do the financial and management benefits of electronic retention outweigh the risks involved? In most cases, there is a strong case for paper destruction. There may, however, be some cases where original documents need to be retained (such as high value documents or ones of historical value).

More information on legal admissibility

Records management legal admissibility

How does Records Management differ from Document Management?

Suppliers of electronic information management systems often use the terms EDMS (Electronic Document Management System) and EDRMS (Electronic Document & Records Management System).

What is the difference between these?

EDMS gives you the basic system for the management of your electronic documents. It will enable the storage and retrieval of documents of many types, including scanned images, 'native' format documents (such as MS Office formats and CAD drawing files), long term storage formats (such as PDF/A) and e-mail messages.

EDRMS will extend this capability in two important areas:

  • It will enable those documents designated as 'records' (as defined in BS ISO 15489 Records Management) to be retained in a read-only status;
  • It will enable retention periods to be allocated and automated.

By implementing these two facilities, compliance with legal and regulatory requirements can be met with a minimum of effort.

© 2007 - E File UK Ltd.

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