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WhatsApp messages: Are they legal evidence?

| Written by Altlaw

The emergence of new forms of digital evidence has facilitated vast changes in how cases across the world are conducted. New methods are required to keep pace with the ever-changing litigation landscape, with the world becoming increasingly digital.

This blog looks into WhatsApp and whether conversations over the popular messaging app can serve as legitimate evidence in a courtroom.

Using digital evidence in court

The short answer to the title of this blog is: yes. WhatsApp messages, among many other forms of electronically stored information (ESI), can be used as evidence in a case.

There are many different types of ESI which can be used as evidence. Some examples include:

  • Videos
  • Photos
  • Text messages
  • Call logs
  • Emails
  • Social media posts
  • Documents
  • Databases

In the ever-expanding digital world, legal professionals must be familiar with the types of ESI used to support a case. However, for digital evidence to be legitimate, it must meet specific criteria.


When will WhatsApp messages be considered evidence?

WhatsApp messages have to meet certain criteria to be classed as official evidence in court. Firstly, the messages must’ve been obtained legitimately, without crossing the right to privacy or security.

Once obtained, it’s crucial to analyse the messages’ authenticity, accuracy, relevance and completeness. Simply having a contact name above a message isn't enough to rule it as authentic. To use WhatsApp messages as evidence in a court of law, it’s a good idea for businesses to ensure they have a solid enterprise messaging solution and retain all records of work-related messaging.

A great way to demonstrate how WhatsApp messages can be used in court is to provide real-life examples.


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Examples of using WhatsApp messages in court

There have been several instances where WhatsApp messages have driven a verdict in the courtroom.

By providing authentic digital evidence, lawyers can paint a timeline of events or present incriminating messages to the courtroom. Here are a few notable examples of how WhatsApp messages led to a courtroom verdict.


1. Forse v Secarma Ltd

In this case, the claimants (Secarma Ltd) accused the defendants — IT consultants for the claimants before the case — of deliberately trying to poach employees for a rival business.

When Secarma Ltd issued the claim, 28 resignations had been made from Secarma Ltd, representing almost half of the workforce.
The claimants provided WhatsApp messages as their primary evidence — messages sent between a Managing Director employed by

Secarma and a former colleague — who had already moved to the rival company.

A group chat named ‘Order of the Phoenix’ was discovered, in which members used pseudonyms to mask their identities. The messages described the plot to move several employees to the rival business as a ‘bowling championship’.


The twist was that group members discussed deleting the contents of the messages due to the potential ‘legal consequences due to non-poaching clauses,’ leading to a successful application for an injunction against the rival business.


2. D. Case v Tai Tarian

In this trial, Darren Case, a housing officer at Tai Tarian, was sacked by former bosses after setting up a WhatsApp group chat to write abusive words towards a female colleague.

The WhatsApp group was created by Mr. Case to communicate about a colleague who was signed off from work due to an operation. Case made it clear that no one should add the woman — who was referred to as ‘Colleague A’ in the tribunal hearing — to the group.

The court was shown a series of comments by Case, which were deemed wholly unacceptable. Due to the messages, Case was suspended and made the subject of disciplinary proceedings, despite a claim of unfair dismissal.


3. The ‘Wagatha Christie’ case

The ‘Wagatha Christie’ case between Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy, the wives of former England footballers Wayne and Jamie, had data at its forefront — including WhatsApp messages.

Starting with an elaborate social media sting from Rooney, the court later heard several ‘explosive messages’ sent between Vardy and her then-agent, Caroline Watt, which played a crucial role in determining the result of the trial.

Towards the end of the trial, a 313-page evidence bundle was released, including many WhatsApp messages and other digital evidence.

Thanks to the role of digital evidence, Rooney was victorious in the trial. Read a more detailed account of how vital ESI was to the verdict of this case.


How do you record and submit WhatsApp messages in court?

Want to learn more about how to record and submit WhatsApp messages that are admissible in court?

Our blog post dives into how experts maintain authenticity when submitting WhatsApp messages and how they're presented during a trial.

Looking to discover more about how WhatsApp messages can decide the fate of a trial? And in what format they can be submitted? Click below to take you to our more in-depth blog post.