Care with sensitive case papers
Criminal Law Committee warns defence agents against having case documents containing sensitive material photocopied at premises outwith the agent's control
It has been brought to the attention of the Society’s Criminal Law Committee that there have been recent instances of criminal defence practitioners presenting case documents, containing sensitive material, for photocopying at premises outwith the control of these agents, such as commercial High Street premises offering photocopying services.
The committee has considered the terms of article 11 of the Code of Conduct for Criminal Work, “Documents and materials”, and is of the view that the prohibition on passing sensitive material to a third party applies to the situation above. This practice increases the potential for the dissemination of such material, whether intentionally or in genuine error, to other third parties.
In addition, the committee would remind all criminal defence practitioners that sensitive material, provided by the Crown, should at no time be passed to an accused except under the exceptional circumstances as narrated at article 11.2 and, other than under those exceptional circumstances, should not be handed over to anyone else.
As well as a potential breach of article 11, which may result in disciplinary action against the practitioners concerned, passing material to the client or third parties may give rise to an offence under the Data Protection Act 1998, which prevents data being disclosed to other parties without consent of the individual whom it concerns.
The committee invites practitioners who may have concerns with regard to the above information to contact the committee secretary, Alan McCreadie, at the Society (e: firstname.lastname@example.org; t: 0131 476 8188).