Bar Council Calls for Government to Protect Civil Liberties

4 April 2012

The Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, has called for the Government to amend further the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) to protect civil liberties and open justice.

As comments by the Deputy Prime Minister draw the spotlight onto the Government's approach to civil liberties, the Bar Council has written to the Home Secretary to urge the Government to consider seriously whether RIPA operates consistently in the public interest.

Chairman of the Bar Council, Michael Todd QC, said:

"The Coalition's Programme for Government pledged to 'restore the rights of individuals in the face of encroaching state power, in keeping with Britain's tradition of freedom and fairness.' But the Government has been giving with one hand and taking with the other. While the Protection of Freedoms Bill is a step in the right direction, proposals for secret courts and intercept 'modernisation' fly in the face of the Government's post-election commitments.

"Earlier this year, the Bar Council raised serious concerns that RIPA violates legal professional privilege (LPP) by allowing the authorities secretly to obtain information about legally privileged communications, in particular private meetings and other communications between a lawyer and a client. That situation is yet to be addressed by the Government, which would prefer to exploit these unintended opportunities without public debate.

"To add insult to injury, we heard last week that section 17 of RIPA may preclude the possibility of a public inquiry into the shooting of Mark Duggan. It is time for the Government to consider whether there is any place for RIPA in an open society with respect for the Rule of Law."

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For further information please contact the Bar Council Press Office on 020 7222 2525.

2. The Bar Council represents barristers in England and Wales. It promotes:

• The Bar's high quality specialist advocacy and advisory services
• Fair access to justice for all
• The highest standards of ethics, equality and diversity across the profession, and
• The development of business opportunities for barristers at home and abroad

The General Council of the Bar is the Approved Regulator of the Bar of England and Wales. It discharges its regulatory functions through the independent Bar Standards Board.