Government admits that regime for handling legally privileged communications is illegal


The Government has admitted that the intelligence agencies’ regime for handling legally privileged communications is illegal. This admission has been made in an ongoing legal claim brought by Amnesty International and rendition victim Abdel Hakim Belhaj. It is claimed that legally privileged communications may have been unlawfully intercepted and been used to provide the Government with an advantage in court. The Investigatory Powers Tribunal has recently ruled that safeguards applied by agencies to intercept material must be sufficiently public in order to satisfy the ECHR.

The Government has now conceded that policies applied by the agencies since 2010 have not met the requirements of the ECHR, specifically Article 8, which protects the right to privacy, and are, as a result, illegal.  The Government has said that it will work with the Interception Commissioner in the forthcoming weeks to review their policies and procedures.  Despite conceding that the regime for intercepting legally privileged communications had not been in accordance with human rights legislation, the Government have asserted that that fact had not prejudiced or resulted in an abuse of process in any civil or criminal proceedings.

Hugh Tomlinson QC, Nick Armstrong and Tamara Jaber are acting for Amnesty in this case. Rachel Logan is leading the Amnesty legal team. Jonathan Glasson QC is acting as Counsel to the tribunal.