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Digital Dilemmas

Written by: Alan Baker 13th June, 2023

The article below discusses the challenges and disadvantages faced by criminal defence lawyers in England and Wales due to the increased use of digital evidence in criminal proceedings.

The authors acknowledge certain limitations in their study, including a small and potentially biased sample of participants, as well as the reliance on honest responses from survey participants and interviewees. However, they argue that clear themes emerged from their data that are likely to be relevant in practice.


One major risk factor identified in the use of digital evidence is the amount, complexity, and reliability of the data.

Previous studies have also highlighted these concerns. The analysis of the experiences of criminal defence lawyers further illustrates how digital evidence is utilised in criminal cases, the delays in accessing legal aid, issues related to disclosure of evidence, and decisions regarding the involvement of expert witnesses.


The article suggests that the volume and diversity of digital evidence exacerbate these tensions and contribute to delays in accessing and analysing the evidence, both from the prosecution and the defence.

The article also points out that some defence lawyers attempt to analyse the digital evidence themselves, either due to the large volume of data or the limited time and resources available.

This self-analysis, however, increases the risk of omitting relevant evidential information, as the lawyers may lack systematic training and expertise in handling digital evidence.

The findings emphasise the need to enhance the understanding of digital evidence among all criminal justice actors, including defence lawyers, in terms of its collection, potential challenges, and when and how it can be effectively challenged in court.


Overall, the article highlights the tensions and disadvantages faced by criminal defence lawyers in dealing with the increased use of digital evidence in criminal proceedings. It emphasises the need for improved access, analysis, and presentation of digital evidence, as well as increased understanding and training for defence lawyers and other criminal justice actors involved in handling digital evidence.