Dear Criminal Cases Review Commission,
I am writing to respectfully make a request in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000. I would like to request the following information from the Criminal Cases Review Commission:-
1. How many applications have been made to the CCRC where the Official Secrets Act applies over the past five years?
2. Does the CCRC have any internal policies or procedures which it considers when dealing with any application from a member of the public where the Official Secrets Act applies? If so, please provide a copy.
3. Does the CCRC have any inter-agency or inter-working agreements with any of the security services including but not limited to MI5, MI6, GCHQ & the Home Office?
4. What training, if any is provided to staff, volunteers and ministers who work within the CCRC relating to managing and handling sensitive data which may be classified as 'SECRET' or 'TOP SECRET'? - often such classification being prevalent in many cases which may involve the Official Secrets Act.
For the avoidance of doubt, the 'Official Secrets Act' refers to the 'Official Secrets Act 1911, 1920, 1939 and 1989.
Thank you contacting the Criminal Cases Review Commission. We confirm that we have received your email and will deal with it appropriately.
Please note that we do not respond to correspondence that has been copied to us.
Dear Mr Jarvis,
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000 REQUEST
I acknowledge receipt of your request for information, received on
Your request is being dealt with under the terms of the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 (FOIA). Please note there is a twenty working day
limit (from receipt of the request) in which we are required to respond to
requests under the FOIA.
The deadline for your request is 09.09.19.
The Criminal Cases Review Commission
5 St Philip's Place
Telephone: 0121 233 1473
Fax: 0121 232 0899
I am writing to make a formal request for an internal review in relation to a Freedom of Information Request which was respectfully submitted on the 9th day of August 2019.
The CCRC have not replied to my FOI request ‘Official Secrets Act & Security Services Working Arrangements’ promptly, as normally required by law.
Please can you provide full and valid reasons for such non-compliance and provide a full and proper response as soon as is possible in order to comply with your duties under the Act.
I look forward to a prompt and speedily response/disclosure.
Dear Mr Jarvis
I write in response to your Freedom of Information request which arrived
at the CCRC on August 9. Apologies for the slight delay in getting this
response to you.
Our responses to your questions in order are:
Question 1. How many applications have been made to the CCRC where the
Official Secrets Act applies over the past five years?
For the purposes of responding we have assumed that the question relates
to the number of cases where material involved in the case is subject to
prohibition from disclosure or some other restriction relating to the
provisions of the Official Secrets Act 1989 (and its predecessors).
The answer is that we cannot count cases where the Official Secrets Act is
in play because this is not a feature of a case that we record separately,
such as a specific field in any of our IT systems.
The CCRC does deal with a lot of secure and/or sensitive information.
There are a range of measures that we use protect such material according
the level of risk it presents. The official secrecy legislation will
undoubtedly relate to some of that information, but there are several
other reasons why material must be handled in a secure manner including,
for instance, that material may relate to informants or other police
intelligence. We do not specifically record the number of cases where the
nature of the material in our possession necessitates special handing
because of the sensitivity or security rating of the material.
Question 2. Does the CCRC have any internal policies or procedures which
it considers when dealing with any application from a member of the public
where the Official Secrets Act applies? If so, please provide a copy.
The Commission treats all of the information it obtains in the course of
its casework as sensitive and all of our procedures and systems, including
IT system, are highly secure and treat information, and particularly
casework information, carefully and with respect. This is for a number of
reason not least of which are that almost all of what we use in the case
review process falls within the ICO’s definition of sensitive personal
data, and that the Commission’s own statute, the Criminal Appeal Act 1995,
makes it a criminal offence for us to disclose casework information in all
but a narrow range of circumstances.
We do, of course, have policies and procedures in relation to how to act
in relation to material where there are reasons to treat that material in
an even more secure manner (as discussed above, official secrecy is only
one of those reasons). But none of those policies or procedures are
designed to deal specifically or exclusively with the Official Secrets Act
We have provided below a summary of our general arrangements for dealing
with sensitive and secure material. We have decided not to provide you
with detailed policies and procedures because we consider that they can
properly be considered as exempt from disclosure under sections 31(1)(g)
and 31(2) (a) and (b) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. You may be
interested in the general rules relating to Government security
classification to which we, as a public body, are required to adhere. More
information can be found here:
Question 3. Does the CCRC have any inter-agency or inter-working
agreements with any of the security services including but not limited to
MI5, MI6, GCHQ & the Home Office?
No, none are necessary. The CCRC has the statutory power to access
material held by any public body, including those that you list, by virtue
of section 17 of the Criminal Appeal Act 1995. This comprehensive power
means that we do not need to have any special arrangements with anyone to
Question 4. What training, if any is provided to staff, volunteers and
ministers who work within the CCRC relating to managing and handling
sensitive data which may be classified as 'SECRET' or 'TOP SECRET'? -
often such classification being prevalent in many cases which may involve
the Official Secrets Act.
As mentioned in the summary below, all staff must be security cleared to
an appropriate level before starting work. The induction process for all
staff includes compulsory training in information security, including the
Government security classification system (see above), which covers the
areas you mention in Q4. Further training/briefing is provided as required
in relation to material at the higher end of sensitivity and/or security
classification. People working with material at the highest levels (such
as those who are DV cleared) receive specialist training our STRAPSO – a
senior member of staff with special expertise and responsibilities in
relation to the most secure and sensitive information.
The CCRC does not have volunteers or ministers working within it.
We hope this information is of some use to you.
General summary of CCRC arrangements for handling sensitive and secure
All CCRC staff are security cleared to at least CTC level. Some are
cleared to SC level, and a number are cleared to DV level. (More
information about those security clearance levels can be found here:
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/security-vet...). Only staff
with the appropriate level of clearance are able to work on cases where
information / material is of a particularly sensitive nature.
In terms of the impact of sensitive information on a case review, the
status of information in terms of sensitivity and/or security does not
make any significant difference in relation to our interest in it.
Information is considered in relation to what impact it may, in our
judgment, have on the safety of a conviction (or correctness of a
sentence). If sensitive and or secure information forms all or part of the
reason that a case is referred for appeal, we have a well-established
practice of securely supplying that material, or at least the sufficient
gist, to the appeal court and any other authority it is appropriate and
necessary to see it, in order that it can be considered in an appeal.
There are many examples of us supplying information in this way in what we
refer to as a confidential annex.
The CCRC’s IT systems are very secure. The IT network is rated at IL4 and
our email currently operates in the .x.gsi system.
Sensitive physical material is stored on site in access controlled locked
safes. At the very highest level, completely separate electronic and
physical arrangement exist in relation to access, storage and
Copiers / scanners / printers are approved up to and including “official
sensitive”. Our maintenance contracts specify that hard drives if removed
/ replaced remain at the CCRC and are not recycled. Destruction of
redundant or broken IT equipment is undertaken by a specialist contractor.
Our on-site shredder is approved up to and including “secret” other
specialist approved arrangements exist in relation to material above that.
We have access to the contactors who hold shared government contract for
storage and transport of highly sensitive information.
The Information Team
Criminal Cases Review Commission
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