the powers and duties of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (hereafter ‘HMRC’) to disclose information about its export control functions to an NGO called Privacy International. That organisation has complained about the conduct of a UK company whom it is alleged has supplied ‘malware’ to repressive regimes (inter alia in Bahrain and Ethiopia) which has then been used for the covert surveillance of political activists. HMRC, in a decision taken on 9th January 2012 (the ‘Decision letter’), stated that it had no power to provide information about its investigations to Privacy International or to any third person, including victims of foreign regimes who used the company’s products for surveillance purposes. The issue arising is whether HMRC is correct to say that it has no power or duty to provide information and as to the correctness of the specific explanations it has (subsequently) given justifying that position. An important sub-issue is whether HMRC is required to inform a complainant of the decision it takes as to whether to prosecute or take no further action in respect of a complaint, bearing in mind that in principle decisions not to prosecute may be challenged by way of judicial review and that absent a communication of the decision taken and the reasons therefor a complainant will not know whether a decision has even been taken and will thereby be precluded from seeking to challenge that decision.
Updated: 03 December 2021; Ref: scu.525145