UK Government Pilots Storage of Digital Evidence on a Blockchain

Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS), an agency under the UK Government’s Ministry of Justice has announced plans to explore a framework for storing digital evidence using blockchain technology. Balaji Anbil, Head of Digital Architecture and Cyber Security at HMCTS made the disclosure recently in a blogpost that appeared on the agency’s website.

Key Component of Reform

According to Anbil’s statement, HMCTS is looking to explore how distributed ledger technology (DLT) can help with the agency’s overall plan to implement reforms in the UK court system. He revealed that to fully establish the benefits and synergies available through blockchains and DLT, the UK Cabinet Office Open Innovation team and HMCTS recently held a joint meeting which also had in attendance Dr Sadek Ferdous, Technology Policy Fellow and Research Associate at Imperial College, London.

At the meeting, Dr Ferdous explained to both bodies that by nature, blockchains offer a very high level of security and data integrity, and they also enable a range of data solutions and innovations. In his view, blockchains can assist the digital evidence management process by instituting a watertight audit trail that keeps records of all data custody to foreclose the possibility of tampering with digital evidence.

The audit trail can effectively form a basis for courts to reliably establish proof of creation, access and modification of all digital evidence and identify any individual or entity linked to it. Courts can use such a framework to reconstruct events reliably, which can be instrumental in establishing what took place and how in the process of walking through legal proceedings. In the event of any changes to evidence, the court has a clear insight into how the changes came to be and when, because the blockchain keeps a complete and unchanging record of all transactions that take place on it.

Such an innovation would thus effectively have the power to revolutionize entire swathes of the UK legal system’s protection framework for digital evidence by guaranteeing the integrity of all data stored on it to a much greater degree than is currently available.

UK Government Pilots Storage of Digital Evidence on a Blockchain

Blockchain Governance Projects

Continuing his statement, Anbil stated that right now, researchers at the University of Surrey are busy at work on a DLT project in partnership with the UK National Archives, with the aim of creating a blockchain storage solution for millions of important documents that are currently stored in centralized silos which have a constant theft, hacking or destruction risk.

There is also a plan afoot to test out a pilot project for a blockchain-based inter-agency information and evidence sharing platform. This project according to Anbil is set to come onstream later in 2018.

Speaking about his eagerness to be part of the groundbreaking HMCTS blockchain project Anbil said:

“We are very excited to work with the Open Innovation team at the Cabinet Office, and to host thought leadership events on emerging technologies with our colleagues within the government digital communities.”

It will be recalled that earlier in the year, it was announced that the British government is considering the codification of blockchain smart contracts into UK law as part of efforts to help the UK maintain its competitive edge with advancing technology.

There have been calls for the UK to appoint a Chief Blockchain Officer with the job description of promoting the use and adoption of blockchain technology across UK public services and government departments.

Outside of the UK, blockchain continues to experience government-level adoption, with Kenya announcing last week that it is looking into implementing a blockchain-based voting process which might potentially stop the cycle of violence and tensions during the country’s typically fraught elections by improving voter confidence and reducing the opportunity to rig or tamper with votes.

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