The Law Society has called for lawyer-client confidentiality to be protected in response to the government’s draft Investigatory Powers Bill, dubbed the ’Snooper’s Charter.’
In a statement, the Society’s chief executive Catherine Dixon said: “We welcome the government’s intention to strengthen the oversight and authorisation framework for investigatory powers through the introduction of a new Investigatory Powers Commissioner. We are however concerned by the absence of explicit protection for clients so that they are able to speak to their legal advisers and receive confidential advice.
“Legal professional privilege is a vital part of the administration of justice. It protects a client’s fundamental right to be candid with their legal adviser without fear that someone is listening in. It does not pose a risk to legitimate investigations because it does not apply when a crime is suspected.
“In the draft bill, the government had the opportunity to signal its intention to give appropriate protection to the client-lawyer relationships that a civilised society depends on. We hope that they will reconsider and take the opportunity to safeguard what is widely recognised as a fundamental right.”
The Investigatory Powers Bill has been introduced in an effort to combat paedophiles and terrorists online, but has attracted criticism from civil liberties activists because it enshrines in law the powers of intelligence agencies to collect large volumes of personal communications data from the general public, as well as to hack and bug phones.