Document Protocol

1. Introduction

1.1. This protocol sets out:

1.1.1. The holding of potentially relevant documents by Core Participants and Material Providers

1.1.2. The provision of such documents to the Inquiry

1.1.3. The receipt and handling of such documents

1.2. This document should be read alongside the Inquiry’s Protocol Relating to Redaction of Documents for the purposes of publication.

2. Definitions

2.1. In this Protocol:

2.1.1. “Material provider” means, any person, institution or organisation, which has been asked to provide information to the Inquiry (including His Majesty’s Government (“HMG”))

2.1.2. any reference to “information” includes documents and witness statements

2.1.3. “document” or “documents” means anything in which information of any description is recorded, whether in paper or electronic form

2.1.4. “Relevant documents” are those which, having regard to the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference, it is likely that the Chair (if aware of their existence) would wish to be provided with

2.2. The Inquiry’s request for documents is wide ranging and may include a request for physical evidence: where it does, references in this Protocol to “documents” should also be taken to include references to physical evidence.

3. Purpose

3.1. This protocol is designed to facilitate the prompt delivery of information to the Inquiry by ensuring that all providers of information and the public understand how the Inquiry will treat information it receives.

4. Provision of information to the Inquiry

4.1. Generally, the Inquiry will approach Material Providers with a request for documents or witness statements pursuant to Rule 9 of the Inquiry Rules 2006 (a ‘Rule 9 request’).

4.2. The Chair expects that any person to whom a Rule 9 request is addressed will cooperate with the Inquiry and provide all relevant material without the need for him to exercise his powers of compulsion of documents or evidence. However, the Chair will consider exercising his powers under section 21 of the Inquiries Act 2005 if the response to such a request is refused, incomplete, or not provided by the deadline.

4.3. Material Providers may on occasion have concerns regarding the sharing of special category personal data, or other information which they consider to be particularly sensitive. In such circumstances, they may wish to request a section 21 notice, which may be issued with the Chair’s agreement.

4.4. Material Providers, including legal representatives, should provide documents requested by the Inquiry, together with any other documents they consider relevant, within the time limits specified by the Inquiry.

4.5. Material Providers are requested, and HMG Material Providers are required, to undertake comprehensive, thorough and rigorous searches in response to a request for documents.

4.6. In the event that an extension of time is sought, an application to the Chair in writing, through the Solicitor to the Inquiry, should be made as soon as possible.

4.7. The Inquiry expects that once a Material Provider has identified relevant documents in response to a Rule 9 request or a section 21 notice, every care is taken to ensure that all such documents are preserved in their original form, in accordance with paragraphs 4-5 above. Original copies of documents provided electronically should not be destroyed during the life of the Inquiry.

5. Document handling and disclosure

5.1. All those engaged in support of the Inquiry will handle information securely whilst in the custody of the Inquiry.

5.2. Overall security of information will adhere to the relevant Government security rules and procedures covering all levels of security classification.

5.3. All those who shall have access to HMG information held by the Inquiry, will be appropriately security cleared, in line with Government rules and procedures for security clearance for access to classified information and, as relevant, the Official Secrets Act.

5.4. The Inquiry files, records, stores and retains both information passed to it, and any material it generates, in a manner consistent with Home Office standards on filing, record keeping, storage and retention of material in order for a full and comprehensive record of the Inquiry to be handed over to the Home Office and/or the National Archives, as appropriate, where it will be treated in accordance with the statutory requirements affecting public records at the end of the Inquiry.

5.5. Insofar as is applicable, the standards and procedure outlined above will apply to documents provided by non-HMG Material Providers.  Core Participants will be required to sign confidentiality undertakings and any disclosure made to them by the Inquiry will be subject to the undertaking until such time as the document is made public by the Inquiry.

5.6. Holders of potentially relevant documents should take a risk-based approach to the handling and retention of material they hold, ensuring that its ongoing management throughout the duration of the Inquiry does not constitute an offence under s.35 of the Act.

6. Legal framework applicable to the Inquiry

6.1. The Inquiry processes personal data in accordance with its obligations under the Data Protection Act 2018 and UK GDPR. In the event that this regime applies to a Material Provider, that Material Provider will be expected to comply with its own obligations when sharing information and documents with the Inquiry and to take such advice as is necessary to ensure its compliance.

6.2. The Inquiry is not a public authority for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (“FOIA”) and will not disclose material in response to requests made pursuant to the FOIA. Arrangements will be made for the Inquiry to assist with responses to any requests made to Material Providers under the Act.

6.3. The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, section 46, provides that copyright is not infringed by anything done for the purposes of the proceedings of a statutory inquiry.

6.4. At the conclusion of the Inquiry information will be handled in one or more of the following ways, as directed by the Inquiry:

6.4.1. transferred to The National Archives and/or the government sponsoring department

6.4.2. returned to original provider(s)

6.4.3. disposed of under the terms of the Public Records Act 1958.

7. About this protocol

7.1. The procedures set out in this Protocol are not intended to cover every eventuality, and where the Chair needs to make a decision as to the procedure or conduct of the Inquiry not covered by this Protocol, he will, in accordance with his obligations under the Act, act fairly and with regard to the need to avoid unnecessary cost.

7.2. This protocol may be amended as necessary. Should the protocol be amended, the revised version will be published on the Inquiry’s website.