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Disclosure Manual: Chapter 24 - Security of Sensitive Material Schedules and Unused Material

Refreshed: 21 October 2021|Legal Guidance

The Government Security Classifications Scheme introduced on 2 April 2014, and updated in 2018, applies to all material held and produced by the police, CPS, and courts as well as other government departments and agencies.

The Scheme categorises material into "Official", "Secret" and "Top Secret" according to certain criteria.

Official

This marking will include the majority of information that is created or processed by the CPS. This includes routine business operations and services, some of which could have a damaging consequence if lost, stolen, or published in the media (without consent from department), but are not subject to a heightened risk profile. Most CPS case information including MG6C, MG6D and MG6E schedules will also be included within this marking. However, more sensitive MG6C, MG6D and MG6E schedules may attract a higher classification.

Official information does not require marking as such, as it is accepted that all HMG information is considered to be "Official".

Official - Sensitive

A limited subset of "Official" information could have more damaging consequences (for individuals, the CPS, or the government generally) if it were lost, stolen, or published in the media. This subset should still be managed within the "Official" classification tier but may attract additional measures (generally procedural or personnel) to reinforce the 'need to know' principle.

Such material should be identified by the marking "Official Sensitive" indicating a need for separate handling arrangements. Examples of this type of material include:

  • High media profile cases, cases dealt with by Central Casework Divisions where the 'need to know' needs to be reinforced and controlled (e.g. restricting access to cases on CMS);
  • Handling of 'Achieving Best Evidence' information, where a specific dedicated policy exists and other procedural measures ensuring 'need to know' is rigorously upheld and sensitive information safeguarded.

Secret

This classification relates to very sensitive information that requires protection against the highly capable threat profile (sophisticated, well-resourced and determined threat actors, such as some highly capable serious organised crime groups and some state actors) and where the effect of accidental or deliberate compromise would be likely to:

  • directly threaten an individual's life, liberty, or safety (from highly capable threat actors);
  • cause serious damage to the operational effectiveness or security of UK or allied forces such that in the delivery of the Military tasks:
    • Current or future capability would be rendered unusable;
    • Lives would be lost; or
    • Damage would be caused to installations rendering them unusable;
  • cause serious damage to the operational effectiveness of highly valuable security or intelligence operations;
  • cause serious damage to relations with friendly governments or damage international relations resulting in formal protest or sanction;
  • cause serious damage to the safety, security or prosperity of the UK or friendly nations by affecting their commercial, economic, and financial interests;
  • cause serious damage to the security and resilience of Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) assets; or
  • cause major impairment to the ability to investigate or prosecute serious organised crime.

Examples of this type of material include material which would reveal the identity of a CHIS (informant or undercover officer/agent) or material provided pursuant to an assisting offender agreement. This material can only be handled by staff with at least SC security clearance.

All information falling within this category should be clearly and conspicuously marked 'Secret'.

Top Secret

This classification relates to exceptionally sensitive information assets that directly support (or threaten) the national security of the UK or allies and require extremely high assurance of protection from all threats. This includes where the effect of accidental or deliberate compromise would be likely to:

  • lead directly to widespread loss of life;
  • threaten directly the internal stability of the UK or friendly nations;
  • raise international tension;
  • cause exceptionally grave damage to the effectiveness or security of the UK or allied forces, leading to an inability to deliver any of the UK Defence Military Tasks;
  • cause exceptionally grave damage to relations with friendly nations; or
  • cause exceptionally grave damage to the continuing effectiveness of extremely valuable security or intelligence operations.

Material of this type will be exceptionally rare and will only be handled by staff with DV security clearance. In practice, disclosure of Secret or Top Secret material to the defence would be extremely rare, and access would need to be strictly controlled (for example, by requiring the material to be reviewed on CPS premises).

Determining the correct classification

Responsibility for determining the classification of prosecution material lies with the agency which generates that material. Investigators and disclosure officers should refer to local guidance (where available) and ensure that material is classified in accordance with the Cabinet Office guidelines.

Where information has been classified by the police or other organisation, the CPS must handle the material in line with the marking provided.

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