Belgium to start digitising judicial records in 2024, paper archives to disappear

Justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne announced at the Bruges courthouse on Monday morning that paper judicial archives across Belgium will be downsized "over time". A new digitisation law due to come into force in early 2024 will ensure that records are kept digitally.

"A paper archive causes problems because it takes up a lot of space," said Van Quickenborne. Bruges has fourteen kilometres worth of archives, and Belgium has hundreds. That generates additional costs. Staff find it difficult to search and there are risks of fire and water seepage." Moisture problems have even led to mould on files in some basements.

The preliminary draft of Van Quickenborne's digitisation law has already been approved by the federal council of ministers. After the recess, parliament will vote on it. "From 1 January 2024, thanks to a new law, archives will have to be kept digitally. Archives like this one here in Bruges will gradually become a thing of the past," Van Quickenborne continued.

Paper archives will not be archived

Existing archives will not be digitised because the process would take decades, according to the minister. After the expiry of the retention periods - 30 years for assize cases, 20 years for correctional ones - the existing paper archives will be thrown out. An exception will be made for state archives containing documents with historical value.

The European Recovery Fund has accelerated Belgium's digitisation of the judicial archives. In it, a sum of €137 million has been earmarked for justice, part of which will go to the digital archive.




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