The Law Society has appointed City firm Reed Smith to represent it in its intervention into the forthcoming Court of Appeal battle between mining company the Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC) and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) over legal professional privilege. 

The case is a crucial test of what constitutes privileged material and could result in internal documents relating to criminal investigations being handed over to prosecutors. 

In Director of the Serious Fraud Office v Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation, the high court ruled last year in favour of the Serious Fraud Office. The watchdog, which has alleged bribery and corruption against ENRC, claimed that documents prepared for ENRC’s internal investigation should not be covered by privilege.

ENRC, which strenuously denies allegations of bribery and corruption, said the High Court’s decision seemed to penalise it for taking responsible steps to investigate the allegations.

The case prompted criticism of the SFO which, according to some lawyers, has ‘waged a war’ against claims of legal privilege. Soon to be departing SFO director David Green dismissed the claims and said the SFO had ‘complete respect’ for the long standing principle but that the office would ’not be afraid to challenge over the top claims’.

Eoin O’Shea, partner in Reed Smith’s litigation group, said: ‎'Legal privilege is an essential right in our complex and regulated society. The Law Society is uniquely placed to assist the appellate courts in clarifying the law in this sphere. Reed Smith is very glad to support the Society’s role protecting access to justice and the rule of law.’

O’Shea is chair of the City of London Law Society’s Corporate Crime and Corruption Committee.

Counsel Dinah Rose QC and David Pievsky of Blackstone Chambers have also been instructed.

The case is listed for three days in the Court of Appeal from 3-5 July.