What is Norwich Pharmacal Order?

Legal Definition
A Norwich Pharmacal order is a court order for the disclosure of documents or information that is available in the United Kingdom and Ireland. It is granted against a third party which has been innocently mixed up in wrongdoing, forcing the disclosure of documents or information. By identifying individuals the documents and information sought are disclosed in order to assist the applicant for such an order in bringing legal proceedings against individuals who are believed to have wronged the applicant.

A Norwich Pharmacal order was first granted in 1974 by the House of Lords in Norwich Pharmacal Co. v Customs and Excise Commissioners, a case concerning the alleged violation of a patent by unknown importers of the chemical subject to the patent. While first developed in relation to intellectual property, Norwich Pharmacal orders are now granted in relation to other torts, including defamation and breach of contract, as well as alleged criminal offences. More recently Norwich Pharmacal orders are used against internet hosting services and internet service providers to identify users which have allegedly engaged in wrongdoing.

In 2011, it was proposed that Norwich Pharmacal orders should not be granted by the UK courts where disclosure of the material in question would cause damage to the public interest. This was implemented in the Justice and Security Act 2013.
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