Thanks to technological advances in information gathering, law enforcement agencies are able nowadays to obtain evidence, when carrying out criminal investigations, in very effective ways that were impossible a few years ago. However, legislations on criminal procedures in many European countries were enacted before these technologies appeared, thus taking no account of them. As a result of this, three very important problems appear:
(1) The admission in Court of evidence obtained this way is frequently uncertain, giving judges no clear criteria on its admission and assessment, and therefore causing uneven application of the law.
(2) These new technologies can lose their efficiency quickly, as soon as criminal organisations become aware of their existence, obtain technical details about them and adopt countermeasures. The absence of standards and regulations protecting them from having to be publicly exposed during trials, burn them out as soon as they are used. This is particularly valid for criminal transnational organisations, usually having almost unlimited resources.
(3) Globalisation of criminality requires the tight collaboration of the law enforcement and judiciary systems of different countries: evidence obtained in one country has to be shared and accepted in other states, while simultaneously observing fundamental rights and substantial or procedural safeguards. The lack of legislation and standards at the national and international level obviously makes this particularly difficult.
To address these problems a complex set of coordinated developments is required, by different actors, at the legislative, standards, technological and law enforcement levels. A specific framework of standards, guidelines and recommendations is needed.
The EVIDENCE project offers a multidisciplinary approach for identification, definition, assessment and articulation of the whole set of actions that should be carried out in a coherent framework, including the following aspects:
- comparative analysis of existing legal provisions which apply in these cases and their impact;
- identification and definition of those legislative changes that should be promoted both at the European and State level;
- definition of open/widely available standards, assuring not only the international transfer of evidence but also the chain-of-custody requirements and the protection of the means of proof, without forgetting the ethical and privacy aspects;
- Identification of operational and ethical implications for law enforcement agencies.
- Identification of those technical developments that should be carried out to sustain all these aspects.
Following this research agenda the EVIDENCE project aims at developing a Road Map (guidelines, recommendations, technical standards, etc.) for realising the missing Common European Framework for the systematic, aligned and uniform application of new technologies in the collection, use and exchange of evidence.
EVIDENCE activities are also directed to the implementation of a stable network of experts in digital forensics and stakeholders communicating and exchanging their opinions not only during workshops and seminars but also constantly in a thematic collaborative network environment.