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Law Society of Scotland urges House of Lords to protect client confidentiality

11 July 2016 | tagged News release

The Law Society of Scotland has urged the House of Lords to support proposals to protect confidentiality between lawyers and clients under the Investigatory Powers Bill, which begins its committee stage today, Monday 11 July.

The Law Society of Scotland, alongside other organisations including the Faculty of Advocates, Law Society of England and Wales and the Bar Council of England and Wales, has expressed concerns that the Bill fails to provide proper protections for confidential communications between lawyers and their clients.

Tim Musson, convener of the Law Society of Scotland Privacy Law Sub-committee, said: “Ensuring a client has complete confidence that they can speak candidly to their lawyer, without any fear of that information being shared with a third party without consent, is vital and needs to be expressly protected within the Investigatory Powers Bill.”

The Society has put forward a number of amendments to the proposed legislation for consideration by the committee. It has also submitted written evidence and made representations to the UK Government at earlier stages of the Bill’s progress.

Tim Musson said: “We believe legal professional privilege (LPP), which protects client confidentiality, should be enhanced in the Bill, as stated in the Joint Committee on Human Rights report, and that the power to target such confidential communications should be removed. There are existing powers that mean LPP cannot be used to protect communications between a lawyer and client if they are being used for any criminal purpose, which should alleviate any concerns in this area.

“There are risks that confidentiality could be breached as the Bill stands. We are concerned about the potential for information being released through the collection of large amounts of data. While the content of any one communication would not be made available, collecting lots of data about significant numbers of people will inevitably contain some confidential communications. This requires correction.

“In today’s technological society, the government does not have a easy task in striking a balance  between protecting people and allowing the freedoms technology can offer. However that protection should not undermine the freedoms we currently enjoy.

“We hope the committee will consider the concerns we have raised and take forward appropriate amends to properly protect client confidentiality.”

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