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Chinese court first to use blockchain secured evidence for criminal conviction

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Yesterday, Legal Daily reported that a court in Shaoxing gave the first criminal sentence in China based on blockchain stored evidence. The news came to light at a consultation on Wednesday, which revealed that the People’s Court of Shangyu District successfully used distributed ledger technology (DLT) to ensure the evidence was authentic and settle the case.

The case centers on various instances of fraud committed by the defendant. They reportedly acted in multiple Chinese provinces to defraud people out of nearly 10,000 yuan ($1,400). In part thanks to the evidence-storing blockchain’s immutability, the defendant has been sentenced to 14 months in prison.

As the article explains, digital evidence stored conventionally on a CD is more susceptible to data loss. The disc may be damaged or misplaced, while if the data was stored on a centralized system, it could be tampered with more easily. The district’s judicial department previously joined with Ant Financial to develop a blockchain system for storing evidence.

The head of Shangyu District’s Court of Appeal said: “The blockchain is a [DLT] that is tamper-proof, traceable and shared. The use of the blockchain for encryption and storage has been confirmed by the Supreme People’s Court as early as 2018, and there have been judgments in civil and commercial cases, but the application in criminal cases is still the first in the country.”

Blockchain ensures that evidence cannot be tampered with once stored. However, it does not protect it from manipulation before storage. As is the case with CD storage, the source of the evidence must also be trustworthy.

Yesterday’s release claims that the court will address this with an internet of things (IoT) data collection device. It plans to build a trusted tool with Ant, which will upload evidence to the blockchain in real-time, allowing for reliable sourcing as well as storage.

Ant Financial’s legal solution is also used by the Hangzhou Internet Court for online disputes. Set up last year, the evidence storage blockchain has now overseen nearly 2 billion transactions. It is further using smart contracts for automated proceedings.