500 years of right to confidential advice from a lawyer ignored in draft bill ~ THE LAW SOCIETY, 22 December 2015.
The Law Society responded to the draft Investigatory Powers Bill Joint Committee consultation this week, calling for explicit protection for clients so that they are able to speak to their legal advisers and receive confidential advice.
Law Society president Jonathan Smithers said:
‘Legal professional privilege is a vital part of the administration of justice. It protects a client’s fundamental right to be candid with their legal adviser without fear that someone is listening in. It does not pose a risk to legitimate investigations because it does not apply when a crime is suspected.
‘In its draft bill, the government had the opportunity to signal its intention to give appropriate protection to the client-lawyer relationships that a civilised society depends on. This is only the second time that the supremacy of legal professional privilege has not been recognised and given appropriate protection in English law.
‘The Law Society is calling on the draft bill to be amended to recognise the importance of legal professional privilege, making it clear that privileged communications are off limits, including in the acquisition of communications data. We are also calling for the deliberate targeting of legally privileged material, information and data to be unlawful.’
Legal professional privilege is over 500 years old and an essential element of the administration of justice in the United Kingdom. It is recognised as a fundamental common law right and a human right protected by the European Convention on Human Rights. English law confers an absolute protection upon legal professional privilege, which can never be overridden.
On 14 December, Colin Passmore, senior partner at Simmons and Simmons, gave oral evidence to the joint committee as the Law Society’s expert witness. He reiterated the Law Society’s concerns about the omission of legal professional privilege from the draft bill, as outlined in an earlier joint statement with the Bar Council.