7. Confidential information
Where the likely consequence of the directed surveillance or conduct of a source would be for any person to acquire knowledge of confidential information, the deployment of a source must be subject to special authorisation. Confidential information consists of matters subject to legal privilege, confidential personal information or confidential journalistic material. In these cases the proposed course of conduct must be referred to the Chief Executive, or in his or her absence to the person acting as Head of Paid Service [normally Richard Cohen as Deputy Chief Executive] for a decision as to whether authorisation may be granted. [See Covert Surveillance and Property Interference Code of Practice Section 4 and Appendix A].
Broadly speaking, legal privilege extends to communications between lawyers and their clients, but not where that communication has a criminal purpose.
Confidential journalistic material includes material acquired or created for the purposes of journalism and held subject to an undertaking to hold it in confidence, as well as communications resulting in information being acquired for the purposes of journalism and held subject to such an undertaking.
Confidential personal information is information held in confidence relating to the physical or mental health or spiritual counselling concerning an individual (whether living or dead) who can be identified from it. Such information, which can include both oral and written communications, is held in confidence if it is held subject to an express or implied undertaking to hold it in confidence or it is subject to a restriction on disclosure or an obligation of confidentiality contained in existing legislation. Examples might include consultations between a health professional and a patient, information from a patient’s medical records or information held by a stockbroker which has been acquired or created in the course of the profession or business, including communications in which personal information is acquired or created.
In those cases where confidential information has been acquired and retained, the matter should be reported to the relevant Commissioner or Inspector during his next inspection and the material be made available to him if requested. Any application for authorisation to acquire confidential data should only be made where there has been prior consultation with the R.I.P.A Co-ordinating Officer or other qualified legal officer.