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Three Rivers (No 5): Time for reconsideration?

Collingwood Thompson QC analyses the courts' interpretation of who constitutes the 'client' for the purposes of legal advice privilege

14 July 2015

Much ink has
been spilled by commentators
over the years analysing the controversial decision of the Court of Appeal in Three Rivers District Council v the Bank of England (No 5) [2003] EWCA Civ 474 and its narrow view as to who constituted the 'client' for the purposes of legal advice privilege.

In the context of a company, which can only act through its agents, the decision came as an unpleasant surprise.

Considerable debate followed as to whether companies should, at the outset, define which employees were to be regarded as the 'client' for legal advice privilege purposes, and how wide a group could be included without a court subsequently denouncing the extent of the group as artificial. Many people predicted that the decision would not survive scrutiny by the House of Lords.

They were mistaken. Despite the lack of enthusiasm ...

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