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Chapter 9: Highly Sensitive and CHIS Material

Handling highly sensitive material

9.1. All relevant sensitive unused material should be included on the MG6D. Highly sensitive material should be also listed and described on a highly sensitive schedule, which will be handled in accordance with the handling guidance in this chapter.

9.2. Highly sensitive material is that which, should it be compromised, would:

  • lead directly to the loss of life
  • directly threaten national security.

9.3. The small number of such cases where this situation may arise are likely to involve investigations into organised crime or into terrorist offences. This material is likely to be in the Secret or Top Secret categories.

9.4. There may be material that, whilst its compromise would not be likely to lead directly to the loss of life or directly threaten national security, relates to a covert human intelligence source (CHIS) who, or whose family, may be injured, threatened or harassed if the material is compromised. Some Police Forces may wish to apply the same procedures to CHIS material as for highly sensitive material.

9.5. Where, exceptionally the police consider material to be too sensitive even for a reference to its existence to be included on the principal MG6D, or consider it too sensitive to reveal its existence to the disclosure officer, the person holding the material should prepare a highly sensitive schedule and make contact with the prosecutor to discuss the material. The material itself must be viewed by a unit head, Special Casework Lawyer or a prosecutor specifically delegated to undertake such work.

9.6. Chief Constables (or the authorising officer for RIPA activity) and Chief Crown Prosecutors or Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutors should agree local handling procedures for highly sensitive material and CHIS material.

9.7. The arrangements must ensure as a minimum that:

  • where sensitive material is revealed to the prosecutor other than by detailing that material on the principal MG6D, that material must itself be scheduled on a separate 'highly sensitive' MG6D
  • this separate highly sensitive MG6D must contain the same level of detail as these instructions requires in relation to any other MG6D
  • the officer submitting this separate highly sensitive schedule, should also submit an MG6E
  • only in the most exceptional circumstances will the lead disclosure officer not be told of the existence of the additional schedules and should record their existence (but not their content of which he or she will be unaware) on the principal MG6D.

9.8. The material and all schedules, statements of sensitivity and any other documents bearing highly sensitive material will remain at all times under the control of the police.

9.9. As noted above, highly sensitive material may be brought to the prosecutor's attention on a highly sensitive schedule by individual investigators without the details being known to the disclosure officer. This is the responsibility of the individual investigator, but prosecutors should be alert to the possible existence of such material in appropriate cases.

9.10. Where there is material that falls within this chapter, consultation between the police and the CPS should take place as soon as possible. Initial contact with the CPS should be at unit head or Special Casework Lawyer level unless the responsibility has been specifically delegated to another lawyer. The consideration of highly sensitive material obtained from the intelligence or security services should not normally be delegated. See further more detailed guidance at chapter 33.

9.11. Inspection should be at an appropriate location having regard to the sensitivity of the material.

9.12. Prosecutors should take care to ensure that file or disclosure record sheet endorsements relating to the consultation do not inadvertently identify the nature of the material.

9.13. It should be noted that there are special provisions for handling material gathered under Part 1 Chapter 1 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (Interception of Communications) and no reference to the authorities for, and the product of, communications intercepts should be made in any unused material schedule.

Handling and security arrangements

9.14. During consultation on sensitive material marked as Confidential or above, any copies of the items discussed or notes taken which could identify the material should be kept separate from the file and in secure conditions. Access to the material or notes should be restricted to those prosecuting the case or advising upon it. If the material is taken to court, it must not be left in an unattended court file. Where the advice of the prosecution advocate is sought, appropriate storage and handling arrangements must be made to ensure the security of the material.

9.15. At the conclusion of a case, all sensitive material retained by the CPS should be returned to the police and a receipt should be maintained. The police officer authorised to collect the items should be handed all copies of the material, together with any notes that may refer to the nature of the material. Before the file is sent to be archived, the unit head or Special Casework Lawyer, as appropriate, must be satisfied that it does not contain anything that may identify the nature of the material.

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