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Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2016

Section 44: Disclosure of information

This Section states that information collected by the Ombudsman during the course of an investigation is protected (Section 44(1)).

The Section prescribes the persons to whom and purposes for which protected information may be disclosed (Section 44(2)). The Section also creates an offence of disclosing such information improperly (Section 44(8)), the penalty for which is a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale (Section 44(9)). The placing of restrictions on the circumstances in which information can be disclosed reflects the extensive powers of the Ombudsman in obtaining information.

The Ombudsman is given discretion to disclose information for the purposes of certain legal proceedings and in certain other limited circumstances.

The Section provides that for the purpose of defamation law, the publication of any matter by the Ombudsman for purposes connected with the Ombudsman’s functions shall be absolutely privileged (Section 44(7)).

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Text created by the Northern Ireland Assembly department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes accompany all Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly.


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