Official secrets—protected disclosures
Official secrets—protected disclosures

The following Public Law practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Official secrets—protected disclosures
  • Official Secrets Act 1989
  • Security and intelligence
  • Defence information
  • International relations
  • Crime and special investigations
  • Express defence—did not know
  • Implied defence—duress of circumstances
  • Seeking authorisation for disclosure
  • Disclosures to authorised persons
  • More...

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA 1998) protects workers who make protected disclosures and allows 'whistleblowers' to bring a claim before an employment tribunal for detriment and/or dismissal as a result of raising a public interest concern. Employees of the security and intelligence services and UK armed forces personnel are exempt from the provisions of PIDA 1998. Civil servants, police officers and government contractors can bring a claim provided they have not been exempted from doing so by way of a ministerial certificate.

While concerns raised to the media and wider public domain can be protected by the PIDA 1998, an individual who commits a criminal offence in making the disclosure will not be protected. Workers who are arrested for any offence relating to the disclosure must therefore wait for proceedings to conclude before bringing a PIDA claim.

Civil servants, police officers and government contractors who would ordinarily be able to seek protection for raising concerns, must be careful that in doing so they do not breach the Official Secrets Act 1989 (OSA 1989). Workers must also be mindful of the common law offence of misconduct in public office which has a wider application than the OSA 1989. The Official Secrets Act 1911 (OSA 1911) which primarily deals with espionage offences is also sufficiently broad to cover unauthorised disclosures.

The OSA 1989 criminalises the unauthorised disclosure

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