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British bill could scrap lawyer/client privacy

13 Dec 2018 / international Print

British bill could scrap lawyer/client privacy

Those stopped at British borders may be deprived of legal counsel for up to an hour under sweeping new security powers.

The British Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill, if enacted, would also give British police the right to listen in on lawyer/client consultations, undermining the traditional right to confidentiality in such matters for those stopped at airports and ports.

Detainee

The bill is being scrutinised in the House of Lords. The Home Office has defended the bill, which limits a detainee’s right to consult a solicitor to “only in the sight and hearing of a qualified officer” [of superintendent rank].

It says that the restriction is designed to stop a detainee using legal privilege to pass on instructions to a third party, either through intimidating their solicitor or passing on a coded message.

Those travelling can be stopped without any suspicion that they have committed an offence. If formally detained on suspicion of committing an offence, they must be cautioned and read their rights.

Suspicion

The Law Society of England and Wales has pointed out that everyone under suspicion of a crime should be able to access confidential legal advice, “particularly when facing serious charges”.

It says the new bill runs contrary to all the usual standards of justice, in that it undermines the confidential nature of communication between a lawyer and client, which has long been seen as a fundamental human right.

Consequences

The bill could lead to a range of consequences, including interference with evidence, the society points out.

The Home Office has defended the measures as “not new or novel”, as they exist in Code C of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act and schedule 8 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

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