International review of criminal policy - Nos. 43 and 44/PROCEDURAL LAW/Background

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146. Computer-specific procedural law problems arise not only in the prosecution of computer-crime cases but also in many other fields of criminal investigation. This is especially illustrated by the prosecution of economic crimes , predominantly in the field of banking, where most of the relevant evidence is stored in automated data-processing systems. In the field of traditional crime, computer-stored evidence is already a significant issue, as is illustrated by cases of drug traffickers conducting their business using personal computers and international telecommunication systems. In future, new optical storage devices based on compact disc technology will further encourage the destruction of originals (if paper originals still exist) after the information has been recorded in automated data-processing systems. Owing to these new technical developments and to the growing use of computers in all areas of economic and social life, courts and prosecution authorities will depend to an increasing extent on evidence stored or processed by modern information technology.

147. The resulting replacement of visible and corporeal objects of proof by invisible and intangible evidence in the field of information technology not only creates practical problems but also opens up new legal issues: the coercive powers of prosecuting authorities, discussed in paragraphs 148-165; specific problems with personal data, discussed in paragraphs 166-170; and the admissibility of computer-generated evidence, discussed in paragraphs 171-175. The relevant problems are dealt with not only at the national level but also by various international organizations, as discussed in paragraphs 176-185.


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