Sharing information outside of HMRC: legal obligations: Human Rights Act 1998
In addition to the CRCA, there are other, more general pieces of legislation which impact on the way we use and disclose information, such as the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA).
What is the Human Rights Act?
The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) provides legal protection for the fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals. ECHR was incorporated into UK law by the HRA.
Under the HRA, it is unlawful for a body carrying out a public function to act in a way that is incompatible with any of the convention rights included in the HRA. HMRC carries out a public function and so must comply with HRA provisions.
This guidance is solely concerned with the information sharing provisions of HRA. However, HRA has implications across many other functions of the department and further guidance generally on HRA can be found on the Human Rights site, see IDG80300.
HRA and information sharing
Article 8 ECHR has a bearing on how, and why, HMRC may disclose information.
This Article provides that ‘everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence’. However, this right is not an absolute right. HMRC may disclose confidential information if the disclosure is:
- in accordance with law, and
- in pursuit of a legitimate aim, and
- necessary in a democratic society.
This means that to comply with Article 8 you must disclose information lawfully, and this is outlined in IDG40300. It also means that you must also ensure that
- the reason for disclosing information is sufficiently important to justify ‘infringing the right to privacy ’
- the information disclosed is no more than is needed to accomplish the objective, i.e. the disclosure is proportionate to the purpose for which the information is disclosed. This requirement is difficult to define absolutely but essentially it means that a judgement must be made for each disclosure about whether the data being disclosed is reasonable in relation to what it will be used for. There is a balance to be struck between the need to safeguard the rights and freedoms of the individual against the wider interests of the effective operation of society through, for example the prevention and detection of crime.
Further guidance generally on HRA can be found on the Human Rights intranet site (see IDG80300). For further guidance and assistance on disclosure issues please contact your Data Guardian.