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Business Crime team discuss Legal Privilege

On the 23rd January 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that legal professional privilege (LPP) applies only to qualified lawyers.

The case which re asserted the unique lawyer, client relationship originated when Prudential Plc sought to withhold documentation about a marketed tax avoidance scheme on the grounds of privilege.

In the leading Judgement Lord Neuberger said that privilege should not be extended to advice given by professional people other than lawyers ‘even where that advice is legal advice which the professional person is qualified to give.’

Legal privilege is there to protect clients, it allows clients to give instructions and receive advice without fear of incrimination. This is a necessary privilege for everyone as it supports the process of law, speeding the conviction of the guilty and the acquittal of the innocent.

This reassertion that privilege is to be applied only to lawyers comes at a time when the CPS stated they will be seeking to increase their tax avoidance case load by five. Clients should be aware that documents and instructions related to the reasoning behind these schemes are at risk of being seized by investigators if advice is sought only from an accountant.