UK High Court finds SFO not barred from giving disclosure of third party documents obtained under compulsory powers

The High Court has held that the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) was not prevented from giving disclosure as a defendant to civil proceedings of documents received from third parties in response to notices issued under section 2 of the Criminal Justice Act 1987 (CJA): Tchenguiz & anor v Rawlinson and Hunter Trustees SA & ors [2013] EWHC 2128 (QB).  The court found, as a matter of principle, that the CJA does not act as a bar against the SFO giving disclosure of documents obtained under its compulsory powers. The court did not address the question of whether the documents in question might be subject to any other statutory bar to disclosure (for example under the Official Secrets Act) or claim to privilege.

As a result of this decision, parties who provide documents to the SFO in response to section 2 notices should be aware that such documents may be disclosable by the SFO in the (relatively uncommon) event that the SFO is itself subsequently obliged to give disclosure in subsequent civil proceedings.  For a fuller briefing from our Litigation notes, click here.

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