A senior policy adviser with HMRC who emailed an embargoed result of a judgement around Whitehall has avoided any further action.
The unnamed individual had received a draft of a judgement where the Home Office and HMRC had been the defendants, then proceeded to email various government departments revealing the favourable outcome.
In World Uyghur Congress (2) v Secretary of State for the Home Department & Ors, Mr Justice Dove said this individual had failed to read and observe important instructions under which the draft judgment had been provided.
The breach, he said, was short-lived and rapidly closed down by the Government Legal Department, but the judge said this was a ‘noteworthy and cautionary incident’ with lessons for all involved in litigation.
The draft of the first judgement had been circulated in January to counsel and solicitors for the purposes of obtaining editorial changes. It had been made clear this was confidential and that neither the draft nor its substance should be disclosed.
The GLD circulated the draft to a ‘limited number’ of people at the Home Office, HMRC and National Crime Agency (the other defendant). It was again made clear in the email that the contents should not be shared.
Nevertheless, a policy officer at HMRC (to whom the draft judgement had been sent by the GLD) wrote to individuals in the Home Office, the Department for International trade, the Cabinet Office and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development office to say the result had been favourable.
His witness statement explained that ‘I did this because I was acting on the mistaken assumption as to the nature of embargo judgements generally, and due to pressure of work.’
He expressed his deep regret that at the time of receiving the embargo draft judgement he did not take the time to properly read the instructions which accompanied it.
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