European Lawyers Day Declaration

9 December 2014

EUROPEAN LAWYERS DAY DECLARATION 2014

We, the Bar Council of England & Wales, the Bar Council of Northern Ireland, the Faculty of Advocates, the Law Society of Scotland, the Law Society of England & Wales and the Law Society of Northern Ireland

United in our commitment to the rule of law and the administration of justice and to the highest standards of professional conduct

Recall:

  1. that it is a fundamental duty of every lawyer to preserve and protect the confidentiality of the lawyer's clients;

  2. that the lawyer's obligation of confidentiality serves the interests of the administration of justice as well as the client's interest;

  3. that, as the European Court of Justice has recognised, the lawyer's obligation of confidentiality "contributes towards the maintenance of the rule of law";

  4. that, for these reasons, the lawyer's right and duty of confidentiality is entitled to special protection by the state.

We note that the issue of surveillance has given rise to great public concern. In light of those concerns, the Council of European Bars and Law Societies has expressed concern that "a core value of the profession ... known in some countries as legal professional privilege is at serious risk, and erosion of this aspect of confidentiality will erode trust in the rule of law".

We affirm the importance of the work of government bodies engaged in law enforcement and national security in protecting the public and in investigating crime. Such activities must nevertheless operate within a legal framework which respects the fundamental rights and freedoms which characterise our constitutional democracy. If the fundamental values which we have affirmed above are not to be undermined, the use of surveillance techniques must be attended by robust and transparent legislative, procedural and technological safeguards which are explicitly directed to protecting lawyer-client confidentiality.