Text and email like it will be read in court someday

Mobile technology means we have the freedom to text and email anyone, anytime, anywhere – it helps us get the job done, it helps us stay connected… it may also help a court or tribunal decide on the outcome of a dispute.

In November of last year, the South Australian Evidence Act 1929 was updated to recognise electronic communications – including text messages and emails. These forms of communications are captured by the law and such records  are becoming commonplace as evidence in court cases. Perhaps the most highly publicised of these recent cases was where where the Federal Court allowed the emails and text messages of James Ashby and Peter Slipper to be subpoenaed and used as evidence.

Users of University mobile devices should consider this when they are using messaging or email services on their corporate device. Be careful what you send! No-one may be watching now, but before you put anything in writing and hit ‘send’, you should consider how your words might sound being read aloud in court.

University mobile devices are the property of the University and as a University employee you have an obligation to use your device sensibly.

  • Think carefully about what you are saying and how it will be read by the recipient - and potentially others in the future.
  • Do not communicate confidential or sensitive information via text message as these messages can be easily shared by recipients.
  • Be aware that the messages you send from a University mobile device are not “private” and that the University may monitor messages that have been sent or require copies for the record. Users should be careful to follow email etiquette as set out in the IT Acceptable Use and Security Policy.
  • Remember that electronic communications that document the formal business and decision-making processes of the University are subject to the State Records Act. You should manage such activities and records within the University’s business systems and in accordance with the University's Information Management Policy and records management procedures.

Editorial note: This article was updated in November 2021.

Tagged in news & announcements, information technology, legislation, privacy & records