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Meet Bob. Bob was prosecuted for an alleged criminal offence. His solicitor has sent him his prosecution briefing, which reads:

THIS PRINTOUT IS PRODUCED FOR THE USE OF THE COURT, DEFENCE AND PROBATION SERVICE ONLY AND MUST NOT BE DISCLOSED TO ANY OTHER PARTY

What is the reason for that?

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  • If I'm right, then the following text should say: DATA PROTECTION LEGISLATION - THESE PERSONAL DATA ARE PROVIDED TO YOU FOR THE AGREED SPECIFICATION PURPOSE(S). KEEP THE DATA SECURE AND PROTECT THEM AGAINST LOSS OR UNAUTHORISED ACCESS
    – user35069
    Oct 14, 2022 at 8:58
  • You are right. But why is Bob seemingly quite sternly prohibited from disclosing data about himself? Is it because it could also identify victims and/or witnesses? Oct 14, 2022 at 11:26

3 Answers 3

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Bob has a right to a fair trial under Article 6 Human Rights Act 1988.

Supporting this right is the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 (CPIA) and its accompanying Code of Practice that, among other things, lay out the rules and procedures for "disclosure" to ensure that Bob is given details of, access to, or copies of relevant non-sensitive material1 to enable him to prepare his defence.

Section 3 CPIA say that:

(1)The prosecutor must—

  • (a)disclose to the accused any prosecution material which has not previously been disclosed to the accused and which might reasonably be considered capable of undermining the case for the prosecution against the accused or of assisting the case for the accused...

[...]

s.3 is the "Prosecution Test for Disclosure", and athough not every PNC court-print in every prosecution will satisfy this test, it seems to do so in Bob's case.

Now that he has had disclosure, Section 17 CPIA places an obligation of confidentiality on Bob and prohibits him from sharing the PNC printout (and all other material disclosed to him) except in the circumstances described within:

(1)If the accused is given or allowed to inspect a document or other object under—

  • (a)section 3, 4, 7A , 14 or 15, or

  • (b)an order under section 8,

then, subject to subsections (2) to (4), he must not use or disclose it or any information recorded in it.

(2)The accused may use or disclose the object or information—

  • (a)in connection with the proceedings for whose purposes he was given the object or allowed to inspect it,

  • (b)with a view to the taking of further criminal proceedings (for instance, by way of appeal) with regard to the matter giving rise to the proceedings mentioned in paragraph (a), or

  • (c)in connection with the proceedings first mentioned in paragraph (b).

(3)The accused may use or disclose—

  • (a)the object to the extent that it has been displayed to the public in open court, or

  • (b)the information to the extent that it has been communicated to the public in open court;

but the preceding provisions of this subsection do not apply if the object is displayed or the information is communicated in proceedings to deal with a contempt of court under section 18.

(4)If—

  • (a)the accused applies to the court for an order granting permission to use or disclose the object or information, and

  • (b)the court makes such an order,

the accused may use or disclose the object or information for the purpose and to the extent specified by the court


1The CPIA Code of Practice offers these definitions:

    1. material is material of any kind, including information and objects, which is obtained or inspected in the course of a criminal investigation and which may be relevant to the investigation. This includes not only material coming into the possession of the investigator (such as documents seized in the course of searching premises) but also material generated by them (such as interview records);
    1. material may be relevant to an investigation if it appears to an investigator, or to the officer in charge of an investigation, or to the disclosure officer, that it has some bearing on any offence under investigation or any person being investigated, or on the surrounding circumstances of the case, unless it is incapable of having any impact on the case;
    1. sensitive material is material, the disclosure of which the disclosure officer believes would give rise to a real risk of serious prejudice to an important public interest; [the Code refers to material not meeting this definition as non-sensitive]

And, for completeness:

  • 10.3 When a prosecutor provides material to the defence in accordance with the obligation under section 3 or section 7A of the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996, the prosecutor must at the same time provide the schedule of non-sensitive material to the defence.
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  • Legend. But whereas Bob's right to disclosure stems from article 6 HRA, whose and what interest is his obligation to confidentiality rooted in? Oct 18, 2022 at 23:15
  • And what would be the penalty if he was to contravene his obligation to confidentiality? Oct 18, 2022 at 23:16
  • Is it simply for the very same reason that journalists are not supposed to report on events about which there are actively pending court proceedings? Oct 19, 2022 at 1:22
  • It seems as though a slightly different scenario though, as... While they could be said to be violating Bob's right to a fair trial, it would seem that Bob would merely be violating his own. Isn't that his choice if he wants to sabotage himself like that? Or is he obliged not to stack the deck by jading the public/jury pool against the prosecution's case to ensure that society gets a fair shot at convicting him as well? Oct 19, 2022 at 1:25
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As explained here, this arises from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and the Data Protection Act 1998. There is a concept of a "spent" conviction, where a person convicted is not reconvicted of a serious offense for years, and then the person is (statutorily) "rehabilitated", and under §4 of the law, they "shall be treated for all purposes in law as a person who has not committed or been charged with or prosecuted for or convicted of or sentenced for the offence [s] which were the subject of that conviction". The law also criminalizes certain disclosures of spent convictions, mainly unauthorized disclosures by officials. The reasoning is that "the public interest in rehabilitation outweighs the public interest in continuing publication and knowledge of the offense". The warning is actually not directed at Bob, it is directed at the prosecutor.

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    It's technically disclosed to the defendant (not everyone is represented) under CPIA1996 and Article 6 HRA, for DPA specified purposes (i.e. trial prep in this example). I'll formulate an answer in due course.
    – user35069
    Oct 14, 2022 at 9:02
  • @Rick I look forward to reading your answer. Oct 14, 2022 at 11:31
  • @user6726: where is that quotation on public interest etc from? Oct 14, 2022 at 11:35
  • Bump bump @Rick Oct 17, 2022 at 13:20
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    This has nothing to do with the Rehabilitation Act and the caveat is not directed at the prosecutor (they sent it!). The information is given to Bob for trial prep - see my answer.
    – user35069
    Oct 19, 2022 at 8:16
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Assuming that “defence” includes Bob, and Bob’s lawyer is allowed to show it to Bob in the first place. The note means exactly what it says: Neither Bob nor anyone else are allowed to pass it to anyone else. If they do and get caught, there might be legal consequences.

Bob will quite likely know some of the contents independently. For example, that briefing might contain a statement by Bob, and a statement by Alice. Bob can tell about his statement, but not about Alice’s.

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