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A Norwich Pharmacal Order (or ‘NPO’) is a civil disclosure court order available in England and Wales. It allows information to be obtained from third parties who have become ‘mixed up’ in wrongdoing; to help victims to investigate, pursue those ultimately responsible and recover their losses. NPOs are named after a 1974 House of Lords decision. NPOs are the subject of a two-page Fraud Advisory Panel briefing paper.
As the Panel says, NPOs can unlock crucial information needed by a victim to pursue a claim, which they would struggle to obtain through other investigative methods. However, NPOs are invasive orders and need to be navigated with care, the paper warns.
Organisations like banks, internet service providers and mobile phone networks often have considerable information about their users that will be highly relevant for investigations. Often these organisations will not simply hand over this information because of concerns about customer confidentiality, and data protection, but they will comply with a court order directing them to give a victim access.
The third party from whom information is most often sought is a bank whose accounts have been used by a fraudster to receive or dissipate the proceeds of a fraud, and where the evidence sought is about the identity of the wrongdoer(s) and the details and holders of accounts to which funds have been diverted.
The paper covers who can apply for such an order, how to apply for one, and what happens when you have an NPO. The applicant is generally required to
give a cross-undertaking in damages. This means that if it is later determined that the NPO should not have been made, the applicant will give compensation.
Once an NPO is made it must be served on the respondent. Also covered are costs; and practical considerations, such as confidentiality – commonly a court will agree to include a gagging order within the terms of the order, to avoid tipping off the suspect.
You can access this help sheet, and others, at the Panel’s website: visit https://www.fraudadvisorypanel.org/resource/.