This debate is sponsored by my good friends at Personal Injury Birmingham
“This House believes the duty of confidentiality of lawyers/professional legal privilege/the professional secret is a cornerstone of human rights.”
Onto my first point, if we examine the word “cornerstone” it means, ‘something of great importance that everything else depends on’. It could be described as a fundamental rule.
There is not text in the European Convention of Human Rights regarding legal profession privilege. It is an important value to be balanced under Article 8 + 6 but its not a cornerstone of Human Rights.
Before we look at the limitations found in the European Court of Human Rights, lets look at how Article 8 is a limited right which is not a great starting point for cornerstone argument.
Article 8 (2) limitations such as: Necessary democratic society and…prevention of disorder or a crime…protection of health or morals
In the Campbell v UK (reported in 1993 in the European Human Rights Report p.137)
On the facts it was held there was a breach of Article 8, but as point of law it was explained that in exceptional circumstances that mail could be read. The court stated that:
‘The reading of a prisoner’s mail to and from a lawyer should only be permitted in exceptional circumstances when the authorities had reasonable cause to believe that the privilege was being abused in that the contents of the letter endangered prison security or the safety of others or were otherwise of a criminal nature.’
Thus, Article 8 cannot offer LPP cornerstone status because of its inherent limitations as a right with exemptions.
In the Michaud v France 2012 case, The Strasbourg Court noted the provision to article 8 that interference with correspondence is permitted insofar as in accordance with the law and to prevent money laundering & associated crimes.