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Confidentiality during ongoing investigations

Journalists and private individuals will sometimes want information about preliminary (ongoing) investigations.

In most cases, the preliminary investigation will be confidential, which means that no information concerning the investigation can be shared, as it could harm the investigation or the individuals involved.

Confidentiality during the preliminary investigation means that material and information from an ongoing investigation cannot be shared, as it could have a negative impact on the investigation. The information contained in a preliminary investigation will be made public in connection with the prosecutor bringing charges. At that time, the preliminary investigation record is submitted to the district court along with the indictment.

The prosecutor decides whether a preliminary investigation is confidential

It is the prosecutor, in their role as preliminary investigation leader, who decides whether to make a preliminary investigation confidential. If there is information that is not considered damaging to the investigation should it be made public, the prosecutor may choose to share this information even before bringing charges.

Information can also be made confidential if a private individual would suffer damages or harm if it was made public. In such cases, the information can remain confidential even after the indictment. Each agency conducts its own confidentiality assessment.

Grounds for confidentiality during the preliminary investigation

It is often highly important to ensure that the suspects in an investigation do not find out what information has been provided by witnesses and injured parties at an early stage. There is otherwise a risk of the suspects trying to adapt their own stories according to what others have said, or trying to influence the injured parties and witnesses to make false statements.

If a suspect was to find out what measures are being taken in the investigation, there is also a risk of important evidence being destroyed. It may also result in the suspect attempting to get friends to provide them with false alibis.

The reverse, i.e. that a witness gets information about the suspects in an investigation, may also cause harm or hinder the investigation.

It can also have serious consequences if the public finds out who the suspects are or who will be called as witnesses. It is not uncommon for the suspicion to be dropped before any charges are brought.

Due to the above, the preliminary investigation will be confidential as a general principle.

Published 2016-10-17. Updated 2016-10-17

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