The High Court has backed international firm Taylor Wessing over its refusal to disclose privileged information to the beneficiary of a Bahamian trust. Taylor Wessing was acting for the trustee of the Glennfinnan Settlement when a beneficiary of the trust requested personal data about parties to litigation in the Bahamas.
The wealth held in the Glenfinnan Settlement is derived from the will of Scottish shipping magnate George Skelton Yuill, who died in Australia in 1917.
According to the judgment in Dawson-Damer v Taylor Wessing and others, the beneficiary served subject access requests on Taylor Wessing in August 2014 under section 7(2) of the Data Protection Act 1998. However the firm refused to provide the relevant information, citing the legal professional privilege exemption.
When the beneficiary first applied to the court for a declaration that Taylor Wessing had not complied, the application was dismissed. However that decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal following a two-day hearing in November 2016. The ruling left certain issues about the status of the data held by the firm to be decided by the High Court; hence the latest ruling.
His Honour Judge Hochhauser QC, sitting as deputy judge of the Chancery Division, accepted that Taylor Wessing was right to claim LPP exemption if they were subject to legal advice privilege between the law firm and its client.
The Court of Appeal had previously found that the LPP exemption only applies to information which would attract LPP as a matter of English law, not information which would be protected from disclosure under Bahamian law.
Hochhauser J stressed that he was ruling on a separate argument to that presented to the Court of Appeal. He stated: 'I do not accept that Taylor Wessing are attempting impermissibly to argue a point they lost before the Court of Appeal. The point being contested before me is a different one, and one which was not decided by the Court of Appeal.'
Kirstie McGuigan, a partner at Taylor Wessing, said: ‘Privilege was a major concern that came out of the Court of Appeal judgment because of the lack of clarity. It was a concern for offshore trustees in instructing London lawyers. It’s really important that foreign jurisdictions still value the advice that we can offer and want our expertise.’
However the judgment states that Taylor Wessing is obliged to conduct a targeted search for certain documents.
Anthony White QC and Richard Wilson QC, instructed by McDermott Will & Emery UK LLP appeared for the claimants; Timothy Pitt-Payne QC and Simon Taube QC, instructed by Taylor Wessing LLP for the defendant.