If any officer of the DoH or anyone acting on that Department’s behalf discloses such information they are committing an offence.
If any person further discloses information knowingly acquired by unlawful disclosure, they are committing an offence.
The defences to a charge of unlawful disclosure are that at the time of the alleged offence the person believed:
- that he was acting with lawful authority
- that the information in question was not personal census information and that he had no reasonable cause to believe otherwise
The penalties if convicted are:
- in the magistrates’ court, up to six months’ imprisonment and/or a fine
- in the Crown court, two years’ maximum imprisonment and/or a fine
- The Census (Confidentiality) (Northern Ireland) Order 1991
Records management considerations
Any staff that may use census information for their work must be instructed on the lawful way in which they may use it and the processes put in place to ensure that unlawful disclosure does not occur.