Critically Endangered small

Data from public enquiries and reconciliation commissions which can be traumatic, politically uncomfortable and contested, typically comes in many different forms and formats. Data protection issues and cultural sensitivities only amplify the challenge to preservations.

Group: Digital Legal Records

Trend in 2021:

Consensus Decision (pending)

Added to List: 2017

No change No Change

Previously: Critically Endangered


Trend in 2022:


No change No Change


Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within twelve months, detailed assessment is a priority

Significance of Loss

The loss of tools, data or services within this group would impact on people and sectors around the world.

Effort to Preserve

It would require a major effort to prevent losses in this group, such as the development of new preservation tools or techniques.


The Tunisian Truth and Dignity Commission to investigate human rights violations committed prior to 2012; enquiries into historical child abuse; Bloody Sunday Enquiry (Saville Inquiry); East Timor Tribunal;

‘Practically Extinct’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Risk of falsification; fragile or obsolete media; dependence on proprietary formats or products; lack or loss of documentation; inaccessible to web harvesting technologies; lack of version control; lack of integrity checks or integrity records; poor chain of custody; inability to identify an archival authority

‘Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Strong sense of archival responsibility; carefully constructed rules around information privacy that retain robust and appropriate preservation capabilities; clear legislation on retention and permanency, an appraisal of perceived value with resources to undertake preservation actions

2021 Jury Review

In 2019, this entry became a subset of an entry introduced in 2017 for ‘Digital Legal Records and Evidence,’ which was split into four more discrete entries. This category includes evidence from public enquiries and commissions that have been presented in court. It recognizes that courts are not limited in the types of evidence that they can admit but that they have a responsibility to provide robust preservation that ensures the authenticity of their records and evidence.
The 2021 Jury noted that there is considerable evidence of good practice emerging from some of the examples where clear archival responsibility has been the key to progress but not to the extent of changing the risk profile or 2021 trend for the entry.

Additional Comments

National or state recordkeeping regimes and legislation are often clear on the retention or permanency of these types of records. A major issue, however, is embargoes. When an embargo is lifted, will the file format or database continue to work, or will it longer work, making the data useless?

Case files and correspondence are one thing. Retention of these should be clear but may differ widely between jurisdictions and levels of government. If retention is not long-term or permanent, the risk of loss may not be so critical. Retention of 'unused' or 'potential' evidence is likely a different matter altogether. It may not even be considered a record, and certainly is not a record of the court. Should it be returned to the suspect or accused? Are their rights being considered here - not just in terms of preservation, but also simply disposition? There are legal and ethical issues around this that need to be fleshed out in conjunction with assessing its preservation risk.

Case Studies or Examples:

Scroll to top