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Is a Disk File a Document?

People sometimes ask, innocently enough no doubt, whether a computer file is a document; whether, since it does not touch paper, it somehow exists sufficiently to be such. Whilst there are circumstanmces where this still does not perhaps apply, in general, a computer file is sufficiently 'actual' to constitute a document.

This was illustrated clearly by the case of Alliance & Leicester Building Society v Ghahremani [1992] 32 RVR 198. Here there was an allegation of a mortgage fraud. The conveyancing solicitors were ordered to preserve all documents which had any connection with the proceedings, and in due course to produce them to the other party. The conveyancer held a copy of the completion statement in a word processing file. He anticipated that it's contents might prove embarrassing (ahem), and amended the file accordingly.

It was held that, the alteration having been proved, and with the computer files falling clearly within the definition of documents without them being reduced to paper, the conveyancer was guilty of contempt of court.

In this case the court referred back to what an earlier case which (perhaps) first set this out clearly, Derby v Wheldon (No 9) [1991] 1 WLR 652.

Important: Please note that our law-bytes are retained for archival purposes only. The law changes, and these notes are often, now, out of date. You must take direct advice on your own personal situation and the law as it currently stands.
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18 October 2013 http://www.swarb.co.uk/lawb/cpuFileDoc.shtml 216 18 October 2013