Legal professional privilege is unlikely to be extended by statute

adviser. It also smacks of self-interest on behalf of advisers, which is unlikely to attract much sympathy. We know from the debates on the Proceeds of Crime Bill that it did not cut much ice with the House of Commons. Moreover, any argument based wholly on discrimination could be demolished at a stroke by abolishing LPP altogether.

An absolute

Fortunately, however, it is not necessary to rely on the discrimination issue alone.

' a fundamental human right which can be invaded only in exceptional circumstances' . In my view, there are good grounds in European law for extending LLP to other professionals. Of particular relevance to chartered accountants giving legal advice is article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which gives a qualified right to respect for private and family life. This right extends to professional activities, and therefore protects both client and adviser. Although the decided cases deal with communications with lawyers, there appears to be nothing which would require a court to interpret the right so narrowly.

So where do we go from here? Legal professional privilege is unlikely to be extended by statute, because no government would have the appetite to fetter the powers of its investigating and revenue-collecting authorities. Also, the reality is that only the House of Lords would upset years of precedent and extend LPP to other professionals on the basis of the common law alone. The arguments, however, are wider than the common law and, ultimately, it will be the court, either here or in Strasbourg, which will decide. All it needs is the right case!

Penny Hamilton LLB CTA (Fellow) is a barrister at Pump Court Tax Chambers and president of the Chartered Institute of Taxation

Tax Budget 2003

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