Be Aware – New Disclosure Process
What you need to know
For every criminal charge the Crown prosecutor’s office is required to provide a Defendant or their lawyer with disclosure (all the evidence gathered against that person).
Until January 4th, 2017, the Crown’s office would provide lawyers and Defendants with a physical copy of the disclosure. Meaning that officer’s notes and reports would be provided on paper and media (video, 911 calls, audio recordings, etc.) would be provided on compact discs, USB keys or hard drives.
However, as of January 4th, 2017, the Crown’s office has implemented an electronic disclosure process. This means that the Crown (or police) have downloaded all of the documents relevant to your case on a “secure” network which defence lawyers must log into and access. Your file is then downloaded over the internet to our personal computers and servers. The government has called this system E-File.
In our view, although the disclosure is often obtained quickly using this method, there are inherent and systemic confidentiality risks associated with accepting your disclosure in such a fashion. As a result of these risks the lawyers at Dunn & Associates have declined to participate in the E-file disclosure system and will not allow client information to be downloaded or stored on the cloud at this time.
We acknowledge that there are significant safeguards in place on the Crown's system to ensure the security of your information while it is on their system and while it is being downloaded though that system. These safeguards include, a secure network where access is only granted using multiple authentication processes both for Crown access and for registered external defence counsel access, a user directory that is separate and distinct from all other user directories within the Government of Alberta and finally access to the E-file application cannot be gained through unsecured networks (ie: the Internet) it is only available to pre-authorized (registered) Defence Counsel.
Be aware that many Criminal Defence offices have acceded to the Crown’s E-file disclosure system. This may present risks for the confidentiality of information and anyone charged with a criminal offence needs to be aware of those risks.
As you are likely aware, there are significant security challenges associated with the storing of electronic documents. Should you choose to authorize E-File your case and personal information will be downloaded over the internet. It could be stored on your lawyer’s computer, their assistant’s computer as well as at off site back up servers or “clouds” which are updated on a daily basis. All of those electronic devices are susceptible to hacking.
The risk of hacking can be mitigated with good cyber security however even the most sophisticated cyber security is susceptible to being compromised – for example, the U.S. Pentagon has been hacked. Although we have not had any problems at Dunn & Associates you need to be aware that any personal information stored electronically that is stored on our personal computers as well as on our server will not be as secure as it would be securely locked in our filing cabinet.
What you can do
Be informed and make sure to discuss the e-file disclosure system with your lawyer. It is your personal information which may be downloaded over the internet and may be susceptible to intercept. Make sure to discuss this process with your lawyer and to discuss alternative options if you are uncomfortable with the electronic process.
Currently, the lawyers and Dunn and Associates will not obtain disclosure electronically and continue to receive “hard” physical documentation and media as it relates to your case.