Disclosure: A Guide To Seeking Norwich Pharmacal Orders

Published date02 December 2022
Subject MatterLitigation, Mediation & Arbitration, Criminal Law, Arbitration & Dispute Resolution, White Collar Crime, Anti-Corruption & Fraud
Law FirmBaker & Partners
AuthorJulia Smirnova

A Norwich Pharmacal Order (NPO) is a disclosure order which allows information to be obtained from third parties who have become 'mixed up' in wrongdoing, helping individuals to investigate, pursue those ultimately responsible and (hopefully) recover their losses.

NPOs are often used where a victim of wrongdoing does not know the identity of the wrongdoer but can point to a third party who has this information. They can also be used to trace assets and obtain other information needed by the victim to put together its case against the wrongdoer.

Such orders can be made when it is necessary to do justice, whether against a third party to an action or potential action, or a person who is a potential party to an action but is not yet because none has been instituted. They are not a tool to be used for the purposes of a "fishing expedition".

An overview

It is a general rule that discovery may only be obtained from a party to a substantive action in progress, and that an action cannot be brought against a person solely to obtain discovery from them but only to proceed against them in respect of a reasonable cause of action.

Exceptionally, the Court may make orders that non-parties give discovery of documents where that discovery is necessary to the applicant's case and the non-party has become, even if innocently, involved in the wrongdoing in respect of which the applicant wishes to bring his case.

NPOs are frequently used in fraud cases, where the third party from whom information is sought is often a bank whose accounts or services have been used to receive or dissipate the proceeds of the fraud, and the information sought is about the identity of the fraudster and/or where the funds have been diverted to. An order requiring a bank to give disclosure of a third party's account information to assist a victim in tracing assets is also referred to as a 'Bankers Trust' order1.

One of the benefits of NPOs is their flexibility. Used effectively, they offer real potential to unlock crucial information that a victim needs to pursue a claim, and which they would struggle to obtain through other investigative methods. Organisations such as banks, internet service providers and mobile phone operators have a wealth of information about their users and NPOs provide a means of accessing that otherwise confidential information.

Criteria for obtaining an NPO

Is there a good arguable case that the plaintiff is the victim of wrongdoing?

  • It must be more than just arguable...

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