House of Lords reject Inland Revenue's claim to legally privileged documents

United Kingdom

In a landmark decision, the House of Lords has unanimously ruled that the Inland Revenue has no power to require a taxpayer to deliver up documents protected by legal professional privilege. The decision, which turned on the construction of section 20 of the Taxes Management Act 1970, found that the Court of Appeal and the Divisional Court were wrong to hold that the collection of revenue was a ground on which a person’s fundamental human right to consult his lawyer in confidence could be overridden.

In his judgment, Lord Hoffmann said that it was open to Parliament to enact legislation to override the right. However, if new legislation were passed, it would have to be in unambiguous terms and compatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to privacy). Legislation interfering with fundamental human rights should be limited to cases which can be shown to have a legitimate aim which is necessary in a democratic society.

For further information please contact Susan Barty by telephone on +44(0)20 7367 2542 or by e-mail at [email protected] or Richard Croker by telephone on +44(0)20 7367 2149 or by e-mail at [email protected] or Guy Pendall by telephone on +44(0)20 7367 2404 or by e-mail at [email protected].