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Disclosure Manual: Chapter 9 - Highly Sensitive and CHIS Material

Refreshed: 21 October 2021|Legal Guidance

Handling Highly Sensitive Material

All relevant sensitive unused material should be included on the MG6D. In exceptional circumstances where the existence of the material is so sensitive that it cannot be listed on the MG6D, it should be listed on a highly sensitive schedule and revealed to the prosecutor separately. The material itself must be viewed by a unit head or a prosecutor specifically delegated to undertake such work.

If there is no sensitive material, the disclosure officer must record this fact on a schedule of sensitive material, or otherwise so indicate.

Highly sensitive material is that which, should it be compromised, would be likely to lead directly to the loss of life, or directly threaten national security.

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 Secret or Top Secret.

Further guidance on Government Security Classifications is provided by the Cabinet Office.

Some police forces may wish to apply the same procedures to CHIS material as for highly sensitive material.

Chief Constables (or the authorising officer for IPA activity) and Chief Crown Prosecutors or Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutors should agree a Service Level Agreement which sets out local handling procedures for highly sensitive and CHIS material. 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 any other MG6D;
  • the officer submitting this separate highly sensitive schedule, should also submit an MG6E; and
  • 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.

If highly sensitive material is brought to the prosecutor's attention by individual investigators without the details being known to the disclosure officer, the investigator must ensure it is recorded appropriately. Prosecutors should be alert to the possible existence of such material and ask questions if in any doubt.

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

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 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 (save for on the counter terrorism teams).

Prosecutors should take care to ensure that file or Disclosure Record Sheet endorsements signpost the existence of sensitive material but do not inadvertently identify the nature of the material. The approach taken to such material should be documented in the Highly Sensitive Disclosure Record Sheet (HSRS).

It should be noted that there are special provisions for handling material gathered under Part 2 of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 (Interception of Communications) as it is not CPIA material 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

During consultation on material which has the potential to be highly sensitive, any copies of the items discussed or notes taken which could identify the material should be kept separate from the file and handled in accordance with its sensitivity. Access to the material or notes should be restricted to those prosecuting the case or advising upon it and if the material is taken to court or advice of the prosecution advocate is sought, appropriate storage and handling arrangements must be made to ensure the security of the material at all times.

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 prosecutor must be satisfied that it does not contain anything that may identify the nature of the material.

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