UK: PROTECTION OF OFFICIAL DATA – REVIEW OF THE OFFICIAL SECRETS ACTS FOR THE 21st CENTURY

The Law Commission, which recommends changes and improvements to the law in the UK, has concluded this project.  It says that the 4 Official Secrets Acts that help protect the UK from spying and leaks are outdated and no longer fit for purpose. The criminal law provisions that protect official information are primarily contained in the Official Secrets Acts 1911-1939 and 1989, and the Official Secrets Act 1911 still provides the principal legal protection in the UK against espionage, despite the fact it was enacted in the run up to the First World War. The final report makes 33 recommendations, which notably includes that a statutory public interest defence should be available for anyone – including civilians and journalists – charged with an unauthorised disclosure offence under the Official Secrets Act 1989. If it is found that the disclosure was in the public interest, the defendant would not be guilty of the offence.  It also recommends that public servants and civilians should be able to report concerns of wrongdoing to an independent statutory commissioner who would be tasked with investigating those concerns effectively and efficiently.  Commentator Joshua Rozenberg says that the report makes 33 recommendations in 3 distinct areas:

  • Espionage: the criminalisation of individuals who try to obtain sensitive information;
  • Leaks: disclosing official information without authorisation; and
  • Public interest: when disclosing protected information may be justified.

https://www.lawcom.gov.uk/project/protection-of-official-data/

Author: raytodd2017

Chartered Legal Executive and former senior manager with Isle of Man Customs and Excise, where I was (amongst other things) Sanctions Officer (for UN/EU sanctions), Export Licensing Officer and Manager of the Legal-Library & Collectorate Support Section

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