Chapter 18
Requests for information


18.1In providing assistance requested under the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 1992 (MACMA), the Central Authority may need to seek information, including personal information,835 from a domestic government department or agency. While MACMA contains provisions under which the Central Authority can seek some assistance from a domestic government department or agency, it contains no provision that empowers the Central Authority to seek information.836

18.2We understand that, once the Central Authority has approved an incoming request for information, the information it requires to satisfy that request will often be obtained from the relevant domestic agency via a request under the Official Information Act 1982. We do not view this as an appropriate use of the Official Information Act. However, without the Official Information Act:

18.3Information requests under MACMA are made under the general section 5 provision. This chapter examines in detail the current position with respect to obtaining information pursuant to a section 5 MACMA request. This highlights the inadequacy of the current state of the law and the need for clarification.837 We also briefly discuss a similar issue that arises in respect to another common request made under section 5, this being the interviewing of voluntary witnesses.
835Personal information is defined in s 2 of the Privacy Act 1993 to mean “information about an identifiable individual” and in s 2 of the Official Information Act 1982 to mean “any official information held about an identifiable person”.
836In this chapter, “information” is distinct from evidence to be used in a criminal proceeding. The MACMA does contain processes for seeking evidence: see ss 31–36.
837We note at the outset that it is important to bear in mind the discussion in ch 19 on the proper relationship between MACMA and other information-sharing regimes. In that chapter, we examine the increasing use of agency-to-agency regimes. Our initial proposal is to suggest that, if the assistance can be provided under an agency-to-agency regime, that regime should be used. This would have a direct impact on general information requests under MACMA, and thus the problem discussed in this chapter may reduce over time.