Opinion Number. 1096

Subject

WAR GRATUITY: PRODUCTION OF COMMONWEALTH DOCUMENTS CONFIDENTIAL EVIDENCE BEFORE WAR GRATUITY BOARD: WHETHER CAN BE WITHHELD ON GROUND OF PUBLIC POLICY

Date
Client
The Chairman, Central War Gratuity Board

The Chairman of the Central War Gratuity Board has forwarded for opinion the following memorandum:

Your opinion is desired as to whether a War Gratuity Board can claim privilege in refusing to produce evidence given before it when served with a subpoena requiring it to do so by a Court of Petty Sessions, or other court.

The objections to the production of such evidence are:

  1. The evidence given is understood to be strictly confidential and not to be used for purposes other than those of the Board. Witnesses therefore give evidence much more freely and frankly than they would under other circumstances.
  2. Witnesses are asked and answer leading questions that would not be allowed in court by a Judge or Magistrate.
  3. To admit such evidence would not be fair to the witness.
  4. If witnesses knew that evidence given before the Board might later be used against them in court, it would militate against Boards getting at the true facts of the case, and being able thereby to give the applicants a 'fair deal'.

In my opinion privilege may be claimed by the War Gratuity Board, in respect of the disclosure of evidence given before it, on the ground of public policy.

If the Board receives a subpoena to produce evidence which the Board does not desire to produce, this Department should be at once informed, when steps will be taken to resist the enforcement of the subpoena.

[Vol. 17, p. 410]