Lawyers should be granted extra protections to safeguard the use of communications data, according to a government-commissioned review on British data law.
In a 373-page report A Question of Trust, David Anderson QC recommends stronger judicial authorisation for all interception warrants, which he said should carried out by the head of a new body, the Independent Surveillance and Intelligence Commission (ISIC).
Anderson said special considerations and arrangements should be put in place when intercepting communications data from lawyers, acknowledging the importance of legal privilege as forming the ‘cornerstone of a society governed by the law’.
The report, commissioned by David Cameron last year in response to revelations by Edward Snowden (pictured) on the scale of government surveillance, also recommends that if authorisation is granted to intercept lawyers' data it should be flagged to the attention of the ISIC.
The extra safeguards would not apply to cases where legal privilege is being used to further a criminal purpose.
The Law Society described the recommendations as ‘encouraging’, and said it is awaiting the government’s response.
Alistair MacDonald QC, chairman of the Bar Council, said: ‘UK surveillance laws are in urgent need of an overhaul, and today’s report makes a strong case for ensuring that any new legislation receives proper parliamentary scrutiny and guarantees that communications between lawyers and their clients remain private.’
He added: ‘As David Anderson QC says in his report, we must entrust public bodies with the powers they need to identify and follow suspects, but unless we have legislation which undergoes proper parliamentary scrutiny and which protects the fundamental right to consult with your lawyer in private, a question of trust will of course arise.’