Ruling in Watson case welcomed by Law Society of England & Wales

A ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union has been welcomed as providing protection against the interception of legally privileged material.

In two cases, Secretary of State for the Home Department v Watson and a case referred from the Swedish courts, the court ruled that EU law precludes national legislation that prescribes general and indiscriminate retention of data. The UK case was brought over the legality of GCHQ’s bulk interception of call records and online messages; the decision has implications for the recently passed Investigatory Powers Act 2016.

The Law Society of England & Wales was permitted to intervene in the Watson case over its concern about surveillance legislation enabling sensitive information to be deliberately or inadvertently intercepted. Its President, Robert Bourns, commented that the ruling “strongly supports the need to protect sensitive information such as legally privileged material, which is private information belonging to the client, and to ensure it is accessed only when absolutely necessary, with robust and independent oversight”.

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