Lawyers have accused the Home Office of ignoring serious concerns that the Investigatory Power’s Bill gives authorities such as the SFO and FCA unprecedented access to legally privileged information during investigations.
On 1 March, the UK’s Home Office introduced the revised Investigatory Powers Bill, nicknamed the Snooper’s Charter, to Parliament.
The bill gives authorities, including intelligence services, the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) the ability to access this information for specific investigations, if it is “necessary and proportionate” for the purpose of combatting terrorism or preventing crime.
But the bill has come under criticism from lawyers who say it fails to adequately protect communications between lawyers and clients from access by third parties.
Andrew Smith at Corker & Binning in London also said he’s concerned by the prospect of legally privileged communications being subject to interception.
“There are already established exceptions to legal professional privilege where it involves the furthering of criminal activity, or there are suspicions of money laundering or terrorism,” he said. “Any further exceptions risk eroding the principle of privilege entirely.”
Smith said that though the new bill requires UK authorities to have exceptional and compelling reasons to access privileged material, these standards are open to interpretation and are unlikely to inspire confidence in those hoping to keep legal communications private.
Read the full article in Global Investigations Review here.