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Australian judge urges Papua New Guinea Lawyers to use Social Media content as evidence in court trials

A senior Australian judge has now encouraged Papua New Guinean lawyers to use Facebook content as evidence in criminal and civil trials, in what has already been heralded globally as the future of litigation.

Speaking during the second day of the Trial Lawyers Workshop yesterday, Tasmanian Supreme Court judge, Justice Stephen Estcourt highlighted that the accelerated growth of online social networks was such that they could no longer be ignored as a rich source of evidence for both criminal and civil trials.

Furthermore, Justice Estcourt said that the Evidence (Amendment) Act 2016 did not include any provisions which explicitly prevented the admission of social media (screenshots etc…) as evidence in a trial. He highlighted that although the question of authenticity of such evidence would arise at a later point when deliberating matters of fact, that the initial question for evidence was whether or not it was relevant to the case.

Justice Estcourt highlighted that with over 1.54 billion users (22 per cent of the worlds’ population) worldwide.

Facebook is already a central hub of information this extensive global community.

In light of this, social media networks such as Facebook should be the first place that a lawyer looks as soon as they are assigned a case.

He said that this could apply to both prosecutors and defence counsels.

As a review of what evidence was already publicly available before advising their clients to restrict their privacy settings or to take screenshots to be admitted as evidence.

Justice Estcourt added however, that although it would be convenient for evidence implicating one’s client to go missing or be deleted, that it would be unethical for a legal aid to advise such a course of action.

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