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Report No. 93

4.5. Official Secrets Act, 1920.-

There are also in force, in England, statutory provisions specifically requiring the disclosure of certain information. One of them is the Official Secrets Act, 1920, which provides as under1:-

"It shall be the duty of every person to give on demand to a Chief officer of police or to a superintendent or other officer of police not below the rank of Inspector appointed by a Chief officer for the purpose..... any information in his power relating to an offence or a suspected offence under the [Official Secrets Act, 1911].... and if any person fails to give such information he shall be guilty of an offence."

In 1938, Ernest Lewis, a journalist in the Daily Despatch, wrote a story about a wanted man. The information for this could have come only from a police officer, whose identity the police wished to know. Lewis refused to disclose the identity. The Magistrate convicted him under the Official Secrets Act. Rejecting his appeal, the Lord Chief Justice observed that the case was "too plain for argument."2

1. Section 6, Official Secrets Act, 1920 (English).

2. Lewis v. Castle, (1938) 2 KB 454.

Disclosure of Sources of Information by Mass Media Back

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