Communities and Justice

Responding to requests for information

What should/can I do if I receive a request for information about my client?

When receiving a request for information, consider:

  • Is there a serious threat?
  • Do I need to seek my client's consent?
  • What steps can I take to ensure the person has a legitimate purpose to ask for information?
  • How much information should I share?

Where your client is assessed at threat of being a victim of domestic violence (as identified by you or the agency requesting the information)

You must obtain your client's consent.

The information you can share will vary depending on where the request is made by. 

  • If the request is made by the Local Coordination Point (WDVCAS or Victims Services): you may share information under Part 13A (share information about the victim-survivor and the perpetrator).
  • If the request is made by an agency or service AND a referral was made initially to the Local Coordination Point: you may share information under Part 13A.
  • If the request is made by an agency or service and no referral was made initially to the Local Coordination Point: you may share information under NSW privacy laws (share information about the victim only).

Where your client is assessed at serious threat of being a victim of domestic violence (as identified by you or the agency requesting the information)

Where you have received a request for information from an agency or service, you should attempt to gain your client's consent to share their information wherever possible and appropriate. Exceptions may be where telling your client may actually increase the serious threat, or you cannot contact them after repeated attempts.

However, if your client refuses to provide consent to share their information, or it is not safe or practical to obtain their consent, Part 13A allows you to share their information without their consent where you reasonably believe that by sharing information, actions could be taken to prevent or lessen the serious threat to their life, health or safety.

Your response should be timely as serious threats can rapidly escalate.

What should I tell my client about information sharing?

Where you have determined that you will share your client's information (where there is a threat or a serious threat), you should tell them what information you will share, with whom, why and what the likely outcome may be. 

You can hand out the information sharing fact sheet  (PDF, 41.9 KB) that provides information on information sharing under Part 13A.  

What should I tell the perpetrator about information sharing?

You do NOT need to tell the perpetrator anything, and the perpetrator must never be informed that information was shared or is held about them.

You must always protect the victim's safety and privacy, and you do not need to acknowledge any contact with the victim.

Can the perpetrator access information about them held in my files?

Not where it relates to a domestic violence threat. You should never disclose information about the victim-survivor to the perpetrator (or to anyone acting on the perpetrator's behalf), and you are not required to let them know that you have any information about them.

The primary consideration is the safety and privacy of the victim-survivor. 

Part 13A overrides NSW privacy laws in relation to perpetrators' access to their information.

I've received a subpoena for my client's information, what should I do?

You should seek legal advice before producing any information under a subpoena.

You may be able to challenge a subpoena for a number of reasons. For example, the information requested may be 'privileged at law', which creates a right to keep communication (written or verbal) confidential and protects it from disclosure.

The three privileges at law that you may potentially rely upon to keep information about your client confidential are:

  • legal professional privilege
  • sexual assault communications privilege
  • professional confidential relationship privilege.

Any privilege belongs to your client and can only be waived by them, so any subpoenas must be discussed with them. If your client consents to disclosure of the information, the information can be disclosed.

If you determine that it is essential to share the information, then you must have a conversation with your client about what the privilege means, why you believe it is important to share that information and that sharing the information may mean that the privilege is lost. Your client must give informed consent before the information can be shared.

Where your client is at serious threat and you determine it is important to share information where you do not have their consent or where you override their refusal of consent, your client should not be considered to have waived their privilege in respect of that information, as they have not consented to that information being shared.

Last updated:

21 Nov 2022