Legal professional privilege fight set to go all the way to Supreme Court

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By Legal Futures

20 April 2011

Court of Appeal: for Parliament, not the courts, to change scope of privilege

The Supreme Court is set to rule on the limits of legal professional privilege (LPP), it has emerged.

The court has granted Prudential permission to appeal the Court of Appeal’s judgment last October, which unanimously confirmed that LPP does not apply to any other professionals except for solicitors and barristers. The company has until 4 May to confirm that it will proceed with the appeal.

In Prudential PLC and Prudential (Gibraltar) Limited v Special Commissioner of Income Tax and Philip Pandolfo (HM Inspector of Taxes), Prudential had sought to extend LPP to advice on tax law given by accountants.

The Court of Appeal said extending LPP to other professionals was a matter for Parliament and not for the courts. Parliament had considered the matter several times over the past 40 years and “that failure to change the law in this respect is not an accident”.

The Law Society and Institute of Chartered Accountants intervened in the case on opposite sides, and the society said it proposed to do so again before the Supreme Court.

Law Society president Linda Lee said: “Legal professional privilege is a fundamental human right long established in the common law. It is a necessary corollary of the right of any person to obtain skilled advice about the law. It is a right that belongs to the client and one that lawyers will protect on their behalf.

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