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Law Society will publish report on consequences for legal sector of EU withdrawal

Body raises concerns over British Bill of Rights and new Snoopers' Charter

27 May 2015

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Having considered the contents of the Queen's Speech, the Law Society has raised concerns over the implementation of a British Bill of Rights, the Investigatory Powers Bill, and the potential withdrawal from the European Union.

Law Society president Andrew Caplen said the representative body for solicitors supported the retention of the Human Rights Act (HRA) and was looking forward to working with the government to ensure that the Act's fundamental principles were protected.

'British people believe in fundamental principles such as freedom of speech, the right to life, and the right to a fair trial. This makes the legal system in England and Wales respected throughout the world,' he added.

Turning to the contentious issue of EU membership, Caplen said the Law Society will publish a report on the implications for the legal sector of a withdrawal from Europe by the summer.

'Now that a referendum on Europe is firmly on the government's agenda, it is important for the profession to look at the implications for the legal sector of any decision by the UK to remain in or withdraw from the EU.

'We will be seeking the views of our members about the implications for them and their clients as that debate develops,' he commented.

In addition, Caplen said that the Law Society remained concerned that the Investigatory Powers Bill - the new and improved 'Snoopers' Charter' - might include measures that would allow surveillance of data communications and circumvent legal professional privilege.

'Communication between a lawyer and their client should be given explicit protection. We expressed a number of serious reservations about the original draft Communications Data Bill in 2012.

'The last government failed to make a convincing case for the original Bill which was overly intrusive and lacked sufficient safeguards,' continued Caplen.

The Liberal Democrat Lawyers Association (LDLA) has already promised to oppose any infringement of civil liberties that may come about from the introduction of counter-extremism legislation, 'Snoopers' Charter', or repeal of the HRA.

Meanwhile, a host of movie stars have joined forces with rights and freedoms organisation Liberty to campaign against government plans to scrap the HRA.

Writing ahead of the Queen's speech, the Bar Council urged the government to improve legal aid provision in the UK.

Mention of legal aid provision appeared to be absent from the speech. There was, however, reference to 'new legislation will modernise…criminal justice'.


John van der Luit-Drummond is deputy editor for Solicitors Journal | @JvdLD

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