Official Secrets Act 1989 (and 1911)

Reference UK/1989/C/6

Under the Official Secrets Act 1989 it is an offence for a Crown servant or government contractor, member of the public or other person to disclose official information in any of the 6 protected categories if the disclosure is made without lawful authority and is damaging to the national interest.

Classes of official information

The Official Secrets Act 1989 replaces section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911 by new provisions protecting more limited classes of official information.

Under the Official Secrets Act 1911, it was a criminal offence to disclose any official information without lawful authority.

Under the 1989 Act it is an offence for a Crown servant or government contractor, member of the public or other person to disclose official information in any of the 6 protected categories if the disclosure is made without lawful authority and is damaging to the national interest. These categories are:

  • Security & Intelligence
  • Defence
  • International Relations
  • Confidential information from another State
  • Crime
  • Special Investigation Powers

Enforcement

The Attorney General is responsible for prosecuting breaches under the Acts.

Penalties

The maximum penalty is 2 years imprisonment and a fine (on indictment)