Lawyers welcome EU court ruling in defence of legal professional privilege

Lawyers welcome EU court ruling in defence of legal professional privilege

Legal bodies have welcomed Luxembourg’s ruling on indiscriminate retention of data as a blow to legislation that undermines legal professional privilege (LPP).

The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that EU law precludes national legislation that prescribes general and indiscriminate retention of data except in the fight against serious crime.

The Law Society of England and Wales and Bar Council of England and Wales made submissions in the case, Secretary of State for the Home Department v Watson and others, to outline concern about the impact on legal privilege and other sensitive information which may be deliberately or inadvertently intercepted.

Legal bodies across the UK had previously united to lobby the Government over provisions in the Investigatory Powers Bill which they said would threaten legal professional privilege.

Subsequent amendments to allay their concerns received a mixed response. The Law Society of England and Wales said the changes were a “significant improvement”, but “not as comprehensive as the legal community felt was appropriate”.

Speaking after yesterday’s ruling, Robert Bourns, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, said: “Legal professional privilege is a fundamental part of the relationship that solicitors have with their clients, ensuring that our clients can seek legal advice in the confidence that it cannot be disclosed to a third party.

“Today’s ruling from the European Court 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.

“The Law Society has worked constructively with government to seek protection for legally privileged material in surveillance law and regulatory regimes. We look forward to continuing this positive engagement as the ministers take steps to implement this ruling.”

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