The government of the UK is exploring the blockchain immutable ledger as a means of protecting evidence in the country. An immutable ledger could help the judiciary in the country, therefore the government is also working with Her Majesty’s Court and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) for this.
Fair jurisprudence demands that judges base their verdict on the evidence. Respect for the judiciary is important in the modern nation-state, however, judges are also human beings. The quality of their verdict depends on the evidence they see. Tampering of evidence is harmful on many counts. It has the potential to allow judges to deliver the wrong verdict at times, consequently, citizens can lose trust in the system.
Despite the best efforts of law enforcement agencies, securing evidence can be difficult. Evidence for a complex case may be sprawling, including documents, tangible items, and there may even be forensic evidence in the mix. Under current systems, it is possible for criminals and their accomplices to infiltrate government agencies. They can tamper with some of the evidence, therefore, the entire body of evidence becomes weak. The prosecution may suffer from weak evidence. The UK has faced this issue in the past.
Securing evidence involves establishing a clear audit trail. There should be a clear and trusted chronological record for each piece of evidence. It should show how it was created, accessed, and modified, besides who handled it, and when. A technological solution should give an iron-clad guarantee about the audit trail, increasing judiciary confidence.
Enter the blockchain immutable ledger.
The ‘Open Innovation Team’ is a part of the Cabinet Office in the Government of the UK. They are working with the ‘Digital Architecture and Cyber Security’ team at the HMCTS. Both departments are exploring the blockchain technology, consequently, they had a meeting already.
Balaji Anbil, the Head of HMCTSs’ Digital Architecture and Cyber Security team is a key stakeholder. He recently published a blog post where he described the thought process of the working group. The other key contributor is Dr. Sadek Ferdous. He is a Research Associate in the Imperial College and has researched public and private blockchains. The working group is researching how they can improve processes like evidence sharing with the blockchain. They are also looking into the technology of helping to establish identity.
The working group is focusing on enterprise blockchains like Hyperledger Fabric and Hyperledger Sawtooth. This is significant because a blockchain for judicial use will only have trusted participants. Public blockchains have unknown participants, hence for transparency, they make information transparent to all. Enterprise blockchains are more suitable in this use case because they have an access control mechanism.
Enterprise blockchains like Hyperledger Fabric or Sawtooth will secure the evidence. They have their suitable consensus algorithm, hence they will also provide an audit trail for evidence. Enterprise blockchains are evolving consistently, consequently, Hyperledger Fabric has recently enhanced its’ security measures.
The Government of the UK is increasingly taking a proactive role in researching the blockchain technology. They may use the technology to redesign the country’s data systems. The UK law reform commission has also decided to research smart contracts.
Blockchain technology has the potential of restoring and solidifying confidence in the British legal system. Both citizens and the government can benefit from knowing justice can be served.