Social media can be used for evidence in court, says judge


AN Australian judge says social media (Facebook) can be a potential source of evidence used for or against defendants in court.
Justice Stephen Estcourt of the Supreme Court of Tasmania told a workshop attended by lawyers from the Public Solicitor’s office in Port Moresby that social media could no longer be ignored.
“Given its all-pervading presence in the lives of 1.5 billion humans (all over the world), makes it an important class of material,” Estcourt said.
He said lawyers could use social media as a source of evidence in both criminal and civil cases because so many people were now living their lives on, for example, Facebook.
He told defence lawyers to advise clients to correct their privacy settings and not to delete anything which could be relevant for evidence, but also to be careful in what they posted online.
He said lawyers could defend their clients by presenting information regarding their social media account.
“You could also use Facebook to present a client’s good behaviour, character or personality because people do live their lives on Facebook by uploading pictures of their whereabouts and activities and posting their personal issues,” he said.
Estcourt said the court would consider “relevance and authenticity” as regards Facebook evidence.
He said an evidence might not be authentic but could be admitted in court based on relevance and later proved of its authenticity during cross-examination.
“If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck,” he said.
“So, if it looks like a Facebook post in form and content, then it has sufficient authenticity to make it relevant and admissible.”