Table of contents

Security clearance appeals procedures

These procedures provide an overview of the requirements for appealing a decision by the Cluster 2 Security Unit Head of Personnel Security, or their representatives in the Decision Making or Personnel Risk Management Teams, to refuse or withdraw national security clearance for Civil Service and Government employees and contractors working on Cluster 2 business.

There is an internal appeal to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) Permanent Secretary, and if the decision to refuse or withdraw clearance is upheld, a subsequent external appeal to the Security Vetting Appeals Panel (SVAP).

More detailed guidance on the processes and timescales for internal and external appeals can be found at Annex A: Cluster 2 Security Unit Security Clearance Appeals Procedures.

In this document the term shall is used to indicate an absolute requirement.

If you have any queries on the content of this document contact MoJ Group Security.

Scope and aim

These procedures apply to permanent members of staff and contractors’ employees employed on the work of MoJ, and those organisations for which the Cluster 2 Security Unit holds the responsibility for vetting, including non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs).

It also applies to:

  • Existing contractors’ employees or other non-permanent staff, who are already engaged in the work of the MoJ.

  • Existing permanent members of staff of other government departments and organisations who have applied for a security clearance with the MoJ.

  • Existing contractors’ employees already engaged on government work in other departments and organisations who have applied for a security clearance with the MoJ.

It does not apply to individuals on initial recruitment to the Civil Service seeking a first security clearance for permanent employment or contractual work with the MoJ.

These procedures apply to existing employees of a contractor who are newly deployed to contracted work for the MoJ.

The Government functional standard for security

Government Functional Standard - GovS 007: Security sets the expectations for protecting the government’s people, information and assets. In respect of personnel security, it states that government organisations shall deliver the appropriate combination of recruitment checks, vetting and on-going personnel security aftercare to reduce the risk from insider threat. Furthermore, GovS 007 states that government organisations shall have:

A process in place which defines the approach to handling the refusal or withdrawal of clearances for both candidates at the recruitment stage and those already in employment.

Data sharing

As part of the processing of the appeal, there may be circumstances which require the Appeal Team to discuss aspects of the case with third parties. The team always balances the need to limit the disclosure of sensitive information with the need to progress the case with individuals or departments that are crucial to obtaining a fair and balanced appeal process.

In doing so the team always seeks consent from the individual to share data, subject to national security considerations.

As an example, the MoJ employs a Senior Security Advisor (SSA) who liaises with the Security Unit on behalf of the Permanent Secretary.

The SSA provides information to the Security Unit concerning the role in the MoJ for which security clearance is being sought, thereby identifying the level of risk inherent in employing an individual to that post. The SSA is therefore involved in the national security vetting process in an advisory capacity and is made aware of concerns raised by the Security Unit in the course of that process which might result in a clearance being refused or withdrawn.

The SSA also acts as liaison between the Appeals Team and the MoJ throughout the appeal process.

Upon completion of this process, the Head of Vetting Appeals provides a full report and recommendation to the Permanent Secretary. The SSA is invited to view this report before submission.

The final decision to uphold the appeal or the decision to refuse or withdraw is made by the Permanent Secretary and communicated direct to the appellant.

Note: The appellant is defined as the individual who has had their security clearance refused or withdrawn, and wishes to appeal this decision.

Where necessary, data can also be shared with the appellant’s line manager, or the originator of material gathered in the course of national security vetting which has a bearing on the decision to refuse or withdraw clearance. In so doing, consent is always sought from the individual to share data, subject to considerations of national security.

Contacts

For general advice or guidance regarding the National Security Vetting process, contact MoJ Group Security.

To declare relevant changes in your personal circumstances, contact the Cluster 2 Personnel Risk Management Team by emailing Vetting team via Security team.

Annex A: Cluster 2 Security Unit Security Clearance Appeals Procedures

Internal appeals

Enclosed with the vetting decision letter to refuse or withdraw CTC (Counter Terrorist Check), SC (Security Check) or DV (Developed Vetting) security clearance should be the appeal documents comprising:

  • An explanation of the internal vetting appeals policy and process and of the entitlement, should that appeal fail, to appeal to the independent Security Vetting Appeals Panel (SVAP).

  • An internal appeal form (Annex B) to be completed by the individual, and guidance as to what is required of the individual when lodging an appeal, for example provision of any additional information, identification of the reason(s) for the appeal as well as any alleged ‘inaccuracy’ or ‘misunderstanding’ in the decision letter.

The vetting decision letter should also provide clear details of where the appeal notice should be sent.

Appeals shall be made by the appellant and sent to the Permanent Secretary using the “Internal appeal form following refusal or withdrawal of security clearance” (Annex B) within 15 working days of receiving the vetting decision.

In lodging an appeal, the appellant should provide as full a rationale as they able, based on the reasons provided in the decision letter, with supporting facts where applicable and including any further information or documentation that might assist their appeal. An appeal submission might include information that was not previously available when the original clearance decision was made, where this information is materially relevant to the case.

On receipt of an appeal, the Permanent Secretary can delegate the handling of it to an appeal officer, usually the Head of Vetting Appeals in the Cluster 2 Security Unit. The appeal officer is independent: they shall not have had any prior involvement or interest in the original decision-making process. The Permanent Secretary reserves the right to hear an appeal internally at their home department in any circumstances if they consider it appropriate.

The Senior Security Advisor (SSA) of the MoJ acts as liaison between the Appeals Team and their department throughout the appeal process. The appeal officer conducts the appeal on behalf of the Permanent Secretary and provides a report and recommendation to the Permanent Secretary. In all cases, the Permanent Secretary makes the final decision.

The appeal officer conducts the internal appeal according to the following guidelines:

  1. They contact the appellant within 5 working days of being delegated to handle the appeal. The appeal officer introduces themselves and provide contact details for the appellant, along with an explanation of the next steps in the appeal process.

  2. The appeal officer provides the vetting decision maker (usually either the Head of Vetting Decisions or the Head of Personnel Risk Management, or their representative) with the appellant’s grounds of appeal and invites them to provide a statement of case and response to the appellant’s representations. They are also asked to provide all documents relevant to the decision and the processes involved.

  3. On receipt of the decision maker’s statement of case and supporting documentation, an appeal bundle is prepared and sent to the appellant, who is allowed a minimum 10 working days to prepare their response based on the contents of the bundle and their own representations.

  4. The appeal officer usually invites the appellant to present their case in person at an appeal hearing. Where this is agreed, the appellant is expected to make themselves available for the hearing as directed. If the appellant chooses not to attend the hearing in person, the appeal is considered on papers alone. If the appellant fails to agree a date for the hearing within six weeks of receiving their papers, or fails to attend the agreed hearing without good reason, a further date is set. If the appellant does not attend, the appeal is considered on papers alone.

  5. Where appropriate, and with the agreement of the appellant, the appeal hearing can be conducted via Skype or another secure communications facility. In such circumstances, those attending shall ensure the appropriate levels of security and privacy are in place for the duration of the hearing.

  6. At the appeal hearing, the appellant may be accompanied by a work colleague from their respective organisation, who may be a trade union representative. Their role is confined to helping the appellant present their representations. They shall not answer questions directly on the appellant’s behalf. Formal legal representation is not permitted. If there are any special requirements that the appeal officer needs to be aware of, this should be drawn to their attention in advance of the hearing so that necessary arrangements can be made.

  7. The appellant should be provided with a written record of the hearing within 5 working days of the hearing taking place, to allow for their comments and to confirm or dispute the accuracy of the record. In the case of a dispute, both records should be retained.

  8. If the appeal officer requires any further information during the appeals process, they can request this from either party at any time.

  9. The appeal officer provides a report and recommendation to the Permanent Secretary within 15 working days of all enquiries being completed.

  10. Where, for operational or management reasons, any of the previous timescales cannot be met, the appellant should be notified and, where possible, a revised timescale should be set. Similarly, where the appellant is unable to meet the timescales, the appeal officer should be notified and, where possible, a revised timescale can be agreed.

On receipt of the report, the Permanent Secretary is responsible for making the final decision. In reaching a final decision, they should consider:

  • The statement of HMG personnel security and national security vetting policy, consideration of the interests of national security and the rights and interests of the individual.

  • The merits of the original decision and the adequacy of the decision-making process.

  • The appellant’s grounds of appeal.

The Permanent Secretary informs the appellant of the outcome of their appeal in writing, giving the full reasons for their decision, related to the relevant facts, unless considerations of national security and confidentiality prohibit this. Where an appeal is rejected, the appellant is informed of their further right of external appeal to the Security Vetting Appeals Panel (SVAP). This concludes the internal appeal process.

External appeals

If an individual wishes to appeal against the outcome of the internal appeal, they can write to the Security Vetting Appeals Panel (SVAP), an independent advisory body which provides a final means of challenging a decision to refuse or withdraw a national security vetting clearance once an internal appeal has been dismissed. In such circumstances, the appellant is advised that if they wish to exercise a further right of appeal to SVAP, they shall notify the SVAP secretariat within 28 days of the decision of the internal appeal and provide contact details.

The SVAP is available to hear appeals from individuals in government departments and other organisations, or contractors’ employees working for those departments and organisations, who have exhausted the internal appeals process and remain dissatisfied with the outcome. It is convened to hear cases as they arise, and consists of a Chairman and two members. The Chairman (and Deputy Chairman) is a senior member of the judiciary.

The SSA might be required to attend the SVAP hearing as well as the appeal officer.

The SVAP makes recommendations to the Head of Organisation in the light of its findings. It can recommend either:

  • That the decision to refuse or withdraw security clearance should stand.

  • That security clearance should be granted or restored.

The SVAP can also comment on the vetting procedures and the adequacy of the internal appeals process and make recommendations. The Permanent Secretary takes the final decision on whether to accept any recommendations to grant or restore a security clearance. Depending on the SVAP’s findings, which are not binding, the Permanent Secretary might choose to consult with Cluster 2 Security Unit regarding next steps.

Annex B: Internal appeal form following refusal or withdrawal of security clearance

The Internal Appeal Form is available for download here.

  • Who should complete this form?

    This form should be completed by individuals engaged in work for the MoJ who:

    1. Have had their security clearance refused or withdrawn; and

    2. Have a right to appeal this decision.

    If you are not sure that you have a right to appeal, refer to the Vetting Appeals Guidance.

  • Where should the form be sent?

    Send completed forms to the Permanent Secretary, at the address provided to you in the letter which formally notified that your security clearance was refused or withdrawn. Appeals submitted by a third party on your behalf are not accepted.

PART A: Your details

  • Surname:

  • Forename(s):

  • Date of Birth:

  • Your current home address:

  • Any temporary address:

  • Contact telephone number:

  • Email address (for correspondence):

  • Department / Organisation:

  • Job title:

Please confirm you are content to receive correspondence by email at the email address you have provided here:

YES / NO

If no, please let us know where you would like correspondence sent?

     

Are you appealing against refusal or withdrawal of your security clearance?

YES / NO

If yes, what levels of security clearance were refused or withdrawn?

     

Do you wish to present your case in person at an appeal hearing?

YES / NO

Do you wish to be accompanied at the hearing by a member of staff or TUS representative?

YES / NO

If yes, please provide details of the individual who will accompany you:

     

PART B: Details of your appeal

For your appeal, you should provide a full rationale, with supporting facts if necessary, and include any information or documentation that might assist your appeal. Typically, an appeal submission might include information that was not previously available when the original clearance decision was made, where this information is materially relevant to your case. Use a continuation sheet if necessary.

     

PART C: Declaration

I declare the information given here is true and complete to the best of my knowledge and belief.

Signature of appellant:

     

Official Secrets Act

The Home Office shall adhere to the Official Secrets Act 1989 which came into force in 1990. It replaced section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911, under which it was a criminal offence to disclose any official information without lawful authority. Under the 1989 act, it is an offence to disclose official information. The act applies to:

  • Crown servants, including Government ministers.

  • Civil servants, including members of the Diplomatic Service.

  • Members of the armed forces.

  • The police.

  • Government contractors, including anyone who is not a Crown servant but who provides or is employed in the provision of goods or services for the purposes of a minister.

Data Protection Act 2018 and UK General Data Protection Regulations

The handling of personal data must comply with UK Data Protection legislation. Departments and agencies should also have regard to UK Data Protection legislation, including any relevant exemptions, when sharing personal data with other departments and agencies or pursuant to international agreements.

Freedom of Information Act 2000

Classification markings can assist in assessing whether exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI) may apply. However, each FOI request shall be considered on its own merits as the classification is not a justifiable reason for exemption. It is therefore important that staff (including contractors) who handle, or are likely to handle sensitive assets, understand fully the impact of such legislation and how it relates to their role.

Public Records Act 1967

Records selected for preservation may be retained under Section 3(4) of the 1958 Act or closed under an exemption provided by the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Decisions over retention or closure are driven by perception of residual sensitivities at the time that release is being contemplated.

Contact details

For any further questions or advice relating to security, contact: security@justice.gov.uk.

Feedback

If you have any questions or comments about this guidance, such as suggestions for improvements, please contact: itpolicycontent@digital.justice.gov.uk.