Extension of legal professional privilege

Barry Riley

Should legal professional privilege be extended to non-lawyers?

R (Prudential Plc and Another) -v- Special Commissioner of Income Tax and Another

The Supreme Court in the above case has granted leave to appeal from the Court of Appeal’s decision on whether the common law legal professional privilege should be extended to non-lawyers, specifically accountants.

The Court of Appeal pointed to the fact that legal professional privilege is an absolute rule which should remain clear and certain in its application and extending it to other professions would jeopardise this. The Court also stated that it was inappropriate for courts to answer such questions on legal professional privilege as this was a matter for Parliament, which had already considered extending legal professional privilege to accountants, but had refused to do so.

The Law Society intervened in the proceedings before the Court of Appeal and has now been granted leave to intervene in Prudential’s appeal to the Supreme Court. The Law Society President stated that, “if legal professional privilege is to be extended beyond advice of legal professionals, then it must be done via statute with clearly defined limits and conditions, rather than through the application of the courts”.

This appeal to the Supreme Court will be of particular interest to accountants looking for legal professional privilege to encompass the legal advice they provide.

It may be that those individuals in the profession pushing for this extension may take their argument to Parliament.

Barry Riley
briley@metcalfes.co.uk
DDI – 0117 9453 042

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