"Robust" protection should be given to lawyer-client confidentiality, says Faculty

13 Mar

 The Dean of Faculty, James Wolffe, QC, has called for "robust" protection of lawyer-client confidentiality, in the wake of a Parliamentary committee report which said new legislation was needed to govern the security and intelligence agencies.

The report stated that the current legal framework under which the agencies operated was "unnecessarily complicated and - crucially - lacks transparency."

Mr Wolffe commented: "The Intelligence and Security Committee has recommended that all the current legislation governing the intrusive capabilities of the security and intelligence agencies be replaced by a new, single Act of Parliament. It has recommended that this legislation should contain specific safeguards for particular individuals and categories of information, including legally privileged information.

"Last month, the UK Government acknowledged that the regime under which the intelligence agencies have been monitoring conversations between lawyers and their clients for the past five years is unlawful. New legislation would provide an opportunity for Parliament to address this - and to provide robust legislative protection for lawyer-client confidentiality.

"Lawyer-client confidentiality is one of the fundamental building blocks of the rule of law. As Sir David Edward wrote in 1975: 'The rights, duties and privileges given to lawyers are ... an essential element in the protection of individual liberty in a free society.' If lawyer-client confidentiality is undermined, so is the protection of that liberty."

In publishing the report, Hazel Blears, MP, for the Committee, said it had found that the UK's intelligence and security agencies did not seek to circumvent the law. Also, GCHQ's "bulk interception" of internet traffic did not equate to blanket or indiscriminate surveillance.

"However, the legal framework is unnecessarily complicated and - crucially - lacks transparency. Our key recommendation therefore is that all the current legislation governing the intrusive capabilities of the security and intelligence agencies be replaced by a new, single Act of Parliament," she added.

"There is a legitimate public expectation of openness and transparency in today's society, and the security and intelligence agencies are not exempt from that. While we accept that they need to operate in secret if they are to be able to protect us from those who are plotting in secret to harm us, the Government must make every effort to ensure that information is placed in the public domain when it is safe to do so.

"This report is an important first step toward greater transparency. Nevertheless, there is more that could and should be done. This is essential to improve public understanding and retain confidence in the vital work of the intelligence and security agencies."

The report can be seen at https://b1cba9b3-a-5e6631fd-s-sites.googlegroups.com/a/independent.gov.uk/isc/files/20150312_ISC_P%2BS%2BRpt%28web%29.pdf?attachauth=ANoY7creR_0t3wOzFBqm3jJKSorqQxurjJHScVDf_ArtNQKh-kyuy-E9DFayITPFlzzXzLRsanGfQZYtxuG6-oNU4z3PUUMvHgQ-IpESJoJVesJ8G7C8kpCQjK_Dr-WoHa3etSRQiqCoDES_T32PW4RP3y3s2iG2ig0tR_Ene7PwvH3vEPyfPAXsnXdO2SMMs4hTpXaCXsBKc2ezG6WOsKad-1h4j1MvbV25SLV3pASU11E2OOwP-7royBSyGqHsl3stVX5iN7hv&attredirects=0