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Snoopers’ Charter: Lawyers’ fight to protect legal privilege reaches the House of Lords

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Amendments supported by the Law Society and the Bar Council will be debated today

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In yet another case of lawyers vs politicians, the legal profession’s concerns about the Snoopers’ Charter are going to be debated in the House of Lords today.

The legal profession has long resisted the controversial Investigatory Powers Bill, dubbed the Snoopers’ Charter, which will allow the government to ‘snoop’ on our communications.

The fear is that the anti-terrorism legislation will end up undermining legal professional privilege (a client’s right to talk to his lawyer in confidence), something solicitors and barristers alike feel very angsty about.

The reasons for this have been summarised by Chairman of the bar Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC:

The right of the citizen to speak in safety with their legal representative is vital to a fair trial. Unless people feel confident that their lawyer will not disclose the content of their communications, they will not speak honestly openly and may fail to communicate information that is vital to their case… Passing the bill in its current form would mean that clients could no longer be guaranteed confidentiality by their lawyers.

Despite its critics, the bill has had its first and second reading, and will be debated in Grand Committee in the House of Lords today. Here, the lawyers will have their say.

A number of suggested amendments to the draft legislation — which aim to protect legal professional privilege — have been tabled by Blackstone Chambers barrister Lord Pannick QC, and these are expected to be raised at the debate.

These proposals are officially supported by the Bar Council and the Law Society, and have drummed up cross-party backing from Lord Lester (Liberal Democrat), Baroness Hayter (Labour) and Lord MacKay (Conservative).

You can read up on what the Law Society, Bar Council and friends are hoping to achieve here: