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HMRC internal manual

Information Disclosure Guide

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HM Revenue & Customs
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Public Interest Disclosures: principles to follow: disclosure categories: general instructions

The general instructions to disclose that have been authorised by the Commissioners are set out on this page. Where a disclosure falls within the terms of one of these general instructions, you must:

  • consider whether the disclosure is necessary to serve the public interest (see IDG60220 for guidance on making this judgement); and
  • whether the disclosure is proportionate to the effect you wish to achieve by making it (see IDG60220 for guidance on making this judgement); and
  • keep a record of key details, as set out at IDG60240.

The judgements above - in effect, final authority to disclose under an existing general instruction - must be made at not less than Higher Officer  level.

Note that each general instruction is linked to the appropriate category in Section 20 of CRCA and permits disclosures only within the terms and purposes set out in that category in the legislation (see IDG60232).

Although the general instruction under Section 20(3) (disclosure to professional regulatory bodies) enables disclosure to an accountancy body with responsibility for the regulation of members of the accountancy profession, no disclosure may be made without clearance by the Commissioners’ Advisory Accountant and authorisation by 2 Commissioners. If you have information that you feel is appropriate for disclosure, you must contact the Commissioners’ Advisory Accountant (see IDG80100) before taking any further action.

Disclosures to other professional regulatory bodies must not be made without an individual instruction. You must seek guidance from your Data Guardian before making any disclosure under s20(3).

All references to the ‘5x5x5 process’ relate to the completion of the ‘Intelligence Report Form A’ by predecessor Customs and Excise staff primarily working within Criminal Investigation and Intelligence. The form itself is the standard format for disclosure of intelligence in the law enforcement community and is based on the principles for recording and disseminating intelligence as laid out in the Management of Police Information Code of Practice. Further details of the ‘5x5x5 process’ can be found in the Enforcement Handbook

Section 20(2)

General Instruction 2.1

DISCLOSURE TO (recipient): the World Customs Organisation, where such disclosure is necessary to fulfil obligations placed upon the Commissioners by the terms of UK membership of and participation in that organisation

DISCLOSURE OF: anonymised seizure data and smuggling trends information (including pictures of concealments, cover loads etc.)

PURPOSE: prevention or detection of crime. The information concerned must be for the purpose of enhancing international understanding of smuggling trends and practices in order to assist in combating smuggling. It may relate to individual cases, but must be anonymised.

General Instruction 2.2

DISCLOSURE TO: overseas Customs administrations and law enforcement agencies

DISCLOSURE OF: intelligence - where that information has been assessed and passed using the 5x5x5 process - in relation to consignments of goods and intelligence relating to suspects and suspect movements.

PURPOSE: prevention or detection of crime. So, for example, the information should:

  • relate to proven, suspected, or possible criminal activity; or
  • relate to current law enforcement operations; or
  • be of a nature that it is likely to contribute to a broader intelligence picture, such that it is likely to assist the fight against smuggling.

General Instruction 2.3

DISCLOSURE TO: an officer of the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU)

DISCLOSURE OF: details of seizures and other intelligence relating to the import, export and transhipment of protected flora or fauna.

PURPOSE: prevention or detection of crime. So, for example, the information should:

  • relate to proven, suspected or possible criminal activity in respect of the import, export or transhipment of species of flora or fauna regarded as being in need of protection under CITES; or
  • relate to current law enforcement operations in respect of the import, export or transhipment of flora or fauna regarded as being in need of protection under CITES; or
  • be of a nature that is likely to contribute to a broader intelligence picture, such that it is likely to assist the enforcement of the UK’s CITES obligations.

General Instruction 2.4

DISCLOSURE TO: a designated member of the Royal Mail Customs Unit, situated within Mount Pleasant sorting centre.

DISCLOSURE OF: information requested by form CN13 of the Universal Postal Union, relating to registered postal packages seized by HMRC containing cigarettes and/or tobacco products, where a claim to compensation has been made to the originating postal authority and submitted to Royal Mail for payment.

PURPOSE: prevention or detection of crime. So, for example, the information should:

  • help to prevent the postal importation of goods without payment of the correct duty;
  • be for the purpose of preventing fraudulent claims for compensation from Royal Mail where a registered postal package has been seized by HMRC.

Section 20(3)

General Instruction 3.1

DISCLOSURE TO: an accountancy body which has responsibility for the regulation of members of the accountancy profession.

DISCLOSURE OF: sufficient information for the body to investigate alleged misconduct by a member of that body where disclosure of that information has been assessed and passed by the Commissioners’ Advisory Accountant and authorised by 2 Commissioners.

PURPOSE: to inhibit and deter accountants’ misconduct relating to a function of Revenue and Customs.

Section 20(4)

General Instruction 4.1

DISCLOSURE TO: police officers

DISCLOSURE OF: intelligence information - where that information has been assessed and passed using the 5x5x5 process - relating to:

  • suspect passengers, crew, vehicles and cargo movements into and out of the United Kingdom;
  • seizures or detections of any prohibited or restricted goods, including breaches of licensing requirements;
  • movements of persons other than passengers or crew within the airport/port/railway terminal area.

PURPOSE: prevention or detection of crime. So, for example, the information should:

  • relate to proven, suspected, or possible criminal activity; or
  • relate to current law enforcement operations; or
  • be of a nature that is likely to contribute to a broader intelligence picture, such that it is likely to assist the fight against crime.

General Instruction 4.2

DISCLOSURE TO: police officers.

DISCLOSURE OF: details of:

  • suspect documentation, items, money, monetary instruments or financial instruments discovered as a consequence of customs-related interventions, where there are reasonable grounds to suspect that these may be indicative of terrorism, kidnapping or other crime;
  • material discovered as a consequence of customs-related interventions but which does not relate to an assigned matter, and which is relevant to police functions, including pornography and drugs.

where such information has undergone, and passed, the 5x5x5 assessment.

This General Instruction only permits the disclosure of information that has not been held solely in the exercise of HMRC’s functions relating to matters to which section 7 of the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005 applies (former Inland Revenue matters).

PURPOSE: prevention or detection of crime. So, for example, the information should:

  • relate to proven, suspected, or possible criminal activity; or
  • relate to current law enforcement operations; or
  • be of a nature that it is likely to contribute to a broader intelligence picture, such that it is likely to assist the fight against crime.

Section 20(5)

Following the establishment of the Serious Organised Crime Agency, disclosure under s20(5) is no longer necessary. There is a statutory gateway between HMRC and SOCA (see IDG54600).

Section 20(6)

General Instruction 6.1

DISCLOSURE TO: a person exercising public functions in relation to public health or public safety, where necessary for the carrying out of those functions.

DISCLOSURE OF: information on threats to public health or public safety from any source, including individuals, where public harm is likely to result if disclosure isn’t made.

PURPOSE: to protect members of the public from threats to health or safety. So, for example, the information could relate to:

  • individuals found in possession of paedophile or indicative paedophile material who wish to work with children or other vulnerable members of society.
  • defective vehicles where a quantifiable danger to the public arises.

General Instruction 6.2

DISCLOSURE TO: the Department for Transport.

DISCLOSURE OF: information relating to the number and nationality of freight vehicles entering the UK and a description of the cargo carried from the Freight Targeting system (FTS).

PURPOSE: to mitigate threats to public health or public safety arising from the impact of a major civil emergency on the flow of priority goods such as hospital equipment/supplies, pharmaceuticals etc. So, for example, the information should:

  • assist the DfT with their analysis of the flow of freight traffic into the UK;
  • inform DfT plans for the diversion of cargo to other ports and help to assess the road traffic impact of such diversions.

Section 20(7)

General Instruction 7.1

DISCLOSURE TO: the Police National Computer (PNC) database, by authorised HMRC staff in the National Co-ordination Unit, in accordance with procedures set out in ‘Business Processes on Updating Names and Vehicles on PNC’.

DISCLOSURE OF: information relating to:

  • arrest details, in accordance with the standard procedures laid down for those bodies with access to the PNC and those procedures relating to the subsequent disposal of cases under the Criminal Justice System;
  • seizure details in respect of vehicles, wanted/missing notifications, and markers in respect of warnings & intelligence;

You may only disclose the above information in connection with the following aspects of any criminal matter:

  • criminal enquiries
  • preventing crime
  • gathering criminal intelligence

PURPOSE: prevention and detection of crime. So, for example, the information should:

  • relate to proven, suspected, or possible criminal activity; or
  • relate to current law enforcement operations; or
  • be of a nature that it is likely to contribute to a broader intelligence picture, such that it is likely to assist the fight against crime.

Please see IDG60252 for a flowchart of the process of making a General Instructions Disclosure.