Section 57: Disclosure of information to enable assessment of financial eligibility
416.This section amends the 1999 Act to allow the relevant authority to request and receive information from the Secretary of State (in practice the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions) and HMRC for purposes relating to the assessment of a person’s financial eligibility for legal aid, and places certain restrictions on the disclosure of that information.
417.Subsection (2) amends section 25(9) of the 1999 Act, making regulations under new paragraphs 6 of Schedule 3 subject to the affirmative resolution procedure.
418.Subsection (3) inserts new paragraphs 6 to 8 of Schedule 3. New paragraph 6 provides that the relevant authority may make an information request to the DWP or HMRC for the purpose of making a decision about a person’s financial eligibility for legal aid in accordance with paragraph 3B(1) and (2) or regulations under paragraph 3B(3) of Schedule 3. It further sets out the categories of information which may be requested (with a power to add further such categories by regulations subject to the affirmative resolution procedure). New paragraph 7 provides that a person to whom information is disclosed under paragraph 6 may disclose that information where necessary or expedient for those purposes. Except in these circumstances, or in accordance with any enactment or order of a court, or if information has already been lawfully disclosed to the public, any disclosure is an offence. A person guilty of this offence is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for up to two years, a fine or both, or on summary conviction, to imprisonment for no more than twelve months, a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum (£5,000) or both. New paragraph 8 defines “benefit status”, “the Commissioners” and “information” for the purposes of new paragraphs 6 and 7.