Section 32A — Restriction upon disclosure of information: Commission

Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:30 pm on 14th December 2006.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour 3:30 pm, 14th December 2006

Group 20 is on restrictions on the disclosure of information. Amendment 72, in the name of the minister, is grouped with amendments 73, 75, 74 and 81 to 84.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

Amendments 72 and 73 pave the way for the creation of a new criminal offence of wrongful disclosure of commission information by extending the prohibition on disclosure that is already contained in section 32A to information that is given to or obtained by the commission or anyone acting on its behalf. Amendments 81 and 82 perform the same function in relation to information held by the professional organisations.

Amendment 75 creates a criminal offence of knowingly disclosing information obtained when employed by or acting on behalf of the commission. The penalty on summary conviction will be a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale. Amendment 83 applies an equivalent offence in relation to the professional organisations and those acting on their behalf.

Amendments 74 and 84 would create similar offences, but there are a number of differences. First, the level of fine is not the same. Not a great deal turns on setting the fine at level 4 as opposed to level 5. We consider that conviction and a level 4 fine are sufficient deterrents.

Significantly, the Executive amendments apply only to information that is knowingly disclosed, therefore they provide an important defence of inadvertent disclosure, which David Davidson's amendments 74 and 84 do not provide. That should save the unfortunate employee who accidentally presses the wrong key on the computer and sends an e-mail to an unintended recipient or who leaves their briefcase on the train. Although such carelessness should be deplored, we should not criminalise otherwise law-abiding people for it.

The Executive amendments will also apply the criminal sanction whenever the information is obtained by someone who was employed by or acting on behalf of the commission or the professional organisation at the time. David Davidson's amendments 74 and 84 would not cover disclosure by people such as former employees, who would escape any penalty, therefore I do not support David Davidson's amendments.

I move amendment 72.

Photo of David Davidson David Davidson Conservative

I accept some of what the minister says. I will not move amendments 74 and 84, as I am convinced by her arguments on them. However, I feel that amendment 72 is not supportable on the basis that it limits the legitimate need to disclose in court information that is required to assist a case by a complainer. Amendment 81 is wide and loose, and prevents fair presentation of required evidence. However, we are happy to support the minister's amendments 82 and 83.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

Minister, is there anything that you wish to add?

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

I have nothing further to say.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The question is, that amendment 72 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 17

For: Adam, Brian, Alexander, Ms Wendy, Arbuckle, Mr Andrew, Baillie, Jackie, Baird, Shiona, Baker, Richard, Ballance, Chris, Ballard, Mark, Boyack, Sarah, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Byrne, Ms Rosemary, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Cunningham, Roseanna, Curran, Ms Margaret, Deacon, Susan, Eadie, Helen, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Gibson, Rob, Gillon, Karen, Glen, Marlyn, Gordon, Mr Charlie, Gorrie, Donald, Grahame, Christine, Harper, Robin, Harvie, Patrick, Home Robertson, John, Hughes, Janis, Hyslop, Fiona, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Campbell, Martin, Paul, Marwick, Tricia, Mather, Jim, Matheson, Michael, Maxwell, Mr Stewart, May, Christine, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McFee, Mr Bruce, McMahon, Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Morgan, Alasdair, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Murray, Dr Elaine, Neil, Alex, Oldfather, Irene, Peattie, Cathy, Pringle, Mike, Purvis, Jeremy, Radcliffe, Nora, Robison, Shona, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mike, Ruskell, Mr Mark, Scott, Eleanor, Scott, Tavish, Sheridan, Tommy, Smith, Iain, Smith, Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stevenson, Stewart, Stone, Mr Jamie, Swinburne, John, Swinney, Mr John, Watt, Ms Maureen, White, Ms Sandra, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan
Against: Aitken, Bill, Brocklebank, Mr Ted, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Fox, Colin, Fraser, Murdo, Gallie, Phil, Johnstone, Alex, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, Milne, Mrs Nanette, Mitchell, Margaret, Petrie, Dave, Scott, John, Tosh, Murray

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The result of the division is: For 86, Against 14, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 72 agreed to.

Amendments 73 and 75 moved—[Johann Lamont]—and agreed to.

Amendment 74 not moved.