Lawyers call for safeguards to protect legal professional privilege in Investigatory Powers Bill

 
Hayley Kirton
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The Law Society wants legal professional privilege to be better protected by the proposed laws (Source: Getty)

Lawyers are today calling on the House of Lords to do more to protect their clients' "fundamental" rights under the Investigatory Powers Bill.

The Law Society is urging the House of Lords to ensure the Bill contains provisions that will protect legal professional privilege and allow clients to communicate confidentially with their lawyers.

"Legal professional privilege is fundamental to our justice system," said Law Society president Jonathan Smithers. "Our legal system functions only when people can speak to their lawyer without fear of their communications being intercepted and confidentiality broken."

In particular, the representative body for solicitors would like the House of Lords to consider amendments put forward by Lord Pannick QC.

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Lord Pannick QC added: "The government needs to add to the Bill clear protection for the legal professional privilege of clients to obtain advice in confidence. As the courts have repeatedly recognised, the ability to obtain advice in confidence is central to the rule of law.

"Clients are not going to seek advice, and be frank with the solicitors and counsel advising them, if they fear that someone else is listening in."

The Bill, which has already made its way through the House of Commons, is now in the process of being discussed in the House of Lords.

A spokesperson for the Home Office, which is the department sponsoring the Bill, said:

The government has consulted extensively on the Bill and continues to engage with interested parties, including the Law Society. We are clear that this Bill should command the respect of the legal profession. It is important, though, that we do not unduly fetter the important work of law enforcement and the security and intelligence agencies to keep us safe.

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The Law Society has previously raised concerns about what the Bill could mean for legal professional privilege, most notably when responding to a consultation on the proposed legislation at the end of last year.

The Bar Council has also highlighted similar concerns in the past.

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