Landmark ruling protects principle of client confidentiality

13th September 2018

Landmark ruling protects principle of client confidentiality

A landmark ruling that ensures clients seeking legal advice when they fear prosecution will have their confidentiality protected has been described as a “shot in the arm” for justice.

Legal privilege allows clients to discuss their legal position candidly with their lawyers in the knowledge that the information will not have to be provided to anyone else.

However, the principle was threatened in May when a High Court judge ordered that communications and legal advice given to a company should be turned over to the Serious Fraud Office. The law firm Dechert had carried out a lengthy internal investigation for mining group Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC) following a whistle-blowing email, with the company believing the advice it received was protected.

The High Court’s ruling that the investigation was not covered by legal privilege stunned experts, who raised serious concerns over the implications for the rule of law.

However, the Court of Appeal has overturned the decision. Earlier this month, ENRC successfully appealed in a case deemed so important that The Law Society intervened to protect the principle of legal privilege.

Christina Blacklaws, President of The Law Society, said maintaining confidentiality and trust between a client and their legal adviser was “fundamental to our legal system”.

“Our involvement wasn’t about the underlying case, but about the principles at stake,” she said.

“If the High Court ruling had been upheld, any organisation facing a prosecution – not just multinationals, but charities, newspapers, small businesses or local authorities – could have to turn over private communications with their lawyers.

“The rule of law depends on all parties being able to seek confidential legal advice without fear of disclosure. That privilege belongs to the client, not the lawyer.”

The Court of Appeal’s decision came sooner than expected, a sign of the importance the legal profession attached to the issue.

The Serious Fraud Office opened a formal investigation into ENRC’s activities in Kazakhstan — the home country of its three founders — and Africa in 2013 following Dechert’s internal inquiry into allegations of bribery, fraud and corruption at the mining group.

Partner (Member)
Practice Areas
Criminal Law Solicitors
Regulatory
Chartered Legal Executive and Associate
Head of Marketing and Business Development
Chartered Legal Executive, Associate
Blog Posts

What not to forget as BREXIT progresses

11/07/2019

The Health & Safety Executive website informs us that in preparation for BREXIT the…

Read More
Upcoming Events

Managing the workforce in 2019

03/04/2019

If you employ staff or have responsibility for HR, Gotelee Solicitor’s annual employment law…

Read More
News Posts

Put me ‘on hold’ please…

16/07/2019

Gotelee Solicitors has devised a unique way to support young, local musicians and improve…

Read More

Testimonials

"Prompt, helpful, polite and very professional service"

-

"I don't think this house sale would have pulled together without Jo's determination and expertise. Excellent!"

- MT

"Jade made the process of buying our first home quick, easy and took the stress out of a new chapter of our lives"

-

"We found Rachel Dawson outstanding, polite, professional and caring."

-

"I have used Tracey Laflin at Gotelee on a number of occasions and in my opinion, she is simply the most efficient conveyancing solicitor I have ever worked with. From the outset, she took the time to understand my specific business requirements and to date, she has exceeded all of my expectations."

- Dale Fiddy - Portobello Developments Ltd

"The ease that we could access and speak to Pat Smith - Thank you"

-

"Jade Shelton was absolutely fantastic!! Professional and proactive at all times."

- JH

"Domini was very fast and efficient in carrying out her work for me - she was also very good at explaining things to me"

-

"This is by far the go-to firm for any issues. You are made to feel valued from the outset and they are so confident in what they do. Wouldn't recommend any other. Thank you Hugh and Max."

- Ros Jones

"Approachable, very efficient, always willing to take my calls and update me."

- SH

Please select preferred method of contact

* We will only contact you by telephone if you select this as primary form of contact. All web enquiries will be stored on our website for 30 days.