Three Rivers District Council and others v Governor and Company of the Bank of England (No 6): HL 11 Nov 2004

The Bank anticipated criticism in an ad hoc enquiry which was called to investigate its handling of a matter involving the claimant. The claimant sought disclosure of the documents created when the solicitors advised employees of the Bank in preparing to present the Bank’s case, and the Bank now appealed an order granting such access, arguing legal professional privilege.
Held: The appeal succeeded, and the order for disclosure was revoked.
Lord Scott of Foscote said: ‘the modern case law on legal professional privilege has divided the privilege into two categories, legal advice privilege and litigation privilege. Litigation privilege covers all documents brought into being for the purposes of litigation. Legal advice privilege covers communications between lawyers and their clients whereby legal advice is sought or given.’
. . and ‘If a solicitor becomes the client’s ‘man of business’, and some solicitors do, responsible for advising the client on all matters of business, including investment policy, finance policy and other business matters, the advice may lack a relevant legal context. There is, in my opinion, no way of avoiding difficulty in deciding in marginal cases whether the seeking of advice from or the giving of advice by lawyers does or does not take place in a relevant legal context so as to attract legal advice privilege. In cases of doubt the judge called upon to make the decision should ask whether the advice relates to the rights, liabilities, obligations or remedies of the client either under private law or under public law. If it does not, then, in my opinion, legal advice privilege would not apply.’ and ‘So I must now come to policy. Why is it that the law has afforded this special privilege to communications between lawyers and their clients that it has denied to all other confidential communications? In relation to all other confidential communications, whether between doctor and patient, accountant and client, husband and wife, parent and child, priest and penitent, the common law recognises the confidentiality of the communication, will protect the confidentiality up to a point, but declines to allow the communication the absolute protection allowed to communications between lawyer and client giving or seeking legal advice. In relation to all these other confidential communications the law requires the public interest in the preservation of confidences and the private interest of the parties in maintaining the confidentiality of their communications to be balanced against the administration of justice reasons for requiring disclosure of the confidential material. There is a strong public interest that in criminal cases the innocent should be acquitted and the guilty convicted, that in civil cases the claimant should succeed if he is entitled to do so and should fail if he is not, that every trial should be a fair trial and that to provide the best chance of these desiderata being achieved all relevant material should be available to be taken into account. These are the administration of justice reasons to be placed in the balance. They will usually prevail.’
Lord Carswell said that case law established that: ‘communications between parties or their solicitors and third parties for the purpose of obtaining information or advice in connection with existing or contemplated litigation are privileged, but only when the following conditions are satisfied: (a) litigation must be in progress or in contemplation; (b) the communications must have been made for the sole or dominant purpose of conducting that litigation; (c) the litigation must be adversarial, not investigative or inquisitorial.’ and ‘ The work of advising a client on the most suitable approach to adopt, assembling material for presentation of his case and taking statements which set out the relevant material in an orderly fashion and omit the irrelevant is to my mind the classic exercise of one of the lawyer’s skills.’

Lord Scott of Foscote, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, Baroness Hale of Richmond, Lord Carswell, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood
[2004] UKHL 48, Times 12-Nov-2004, [2004] 3 WLR 1274, [2005] 1 AC 610
House of Lords, Bailii
England and Wales
Appeal fromThree Rivers District Council and others v The Governor and Co of the Bank of England (No 6) CA 1-Mar-2004
The Bank of England had sought assistance from its lawyers to prepare for a private non-statutory enquiry. The claimant sought disclosure of that advice. The defendant bank claimed legal professional privilege.
Held: Not all advice given by a . .
CitedGreenhough v Gaskell CA 1833
The question arose whether the defendant solicitor, sued for fraudulently concealing that his client was insolvent and thereby inducing the plaintiff to issue a promissory note on the client’s behalf, could claim privilege in respect of . .
CitedB and Others Russell McVeagh McKenzie Bartleet and Co v Auckland District Law Society, Gary J Judd PC 19-May-2003
(New Zealand) Solicitors resisted requests to disclose papers in breach of legal professional privilege from their professional body investigating allegations of professional misconduct against them.
Held: The appeal was allowed. The . .
CitedMinet v Morgan CA 1873
A connection with litigation is not a necessary condition for legal privilege to be attracted to a document.
The law on legal privilege had not at once reached a broad and reasonable footing, but reached it by successive steps. . .
CitedRegina v Special Commissioner And Another, ex parte Morgan Grenfell and Co Ltd HL 16-May-2002
The inspector issued a notice requiring production of certain documents. The respondents refused to produce them, saying that they were protected by legal professional privilege.
Held: Legal professional privilege is a fundamental part of . .
CitedBalabel v Air India CA 1988
When considering claims for legal professional privilege, the court should acknowledge the ‘continuity of communications’. However, where the traditional role of a solicitor had expanded, the scope of legal professional privilege should not be . .
CitedRegina v Derby Magistrates Court Ex Parte B HL 19-Oct-1995
No Breach of Solicitor Client Confidence Allowed
B was charged with the murder of a young girl. He made a confession to the police, but later changed his story, saying his stepfather had killed the girl. He was acquitted. The stepfather was then charged with the murder. At his committal for trial, . .
CitedIn Re L (A Minor) (Police Investigation: Privilege) HL 22-Mar-1996
A report obtained for Children Act proceedings has no privilege against use in evidence. Such proceedings are in the nature of inquisitorial proceedings. Litigation privilege was not applicable in care proceedings and a report prepared may be given . .
CitedWheeler v Le Marchant CA 1881
Advice was given to the defendant trustee of the will of a Mr Brett in the course of its administration in the Chancery Division; for the purpose of that advice information was sought from both the former and the current estate-agent and surveyor. . .
CitedRegina v A Special Commissioner ex parte Morgan Grenfell and Co Ltd; Regina v Martyn Rounding (HM Inspector of Taxes) ex parte Morgan Grenfell and Co Ltd CA 2-Mar-2001
The inspector of taxes had power to issue a notice requiring access to legally privileged material. The power given by the section included certain exceptions, and those were not to be extended. The special or general commissioners had no power to . .
CitedMinter v Priest HL 1930
The House was asked whether a conversation between a person seeking the services of a solicitor in relation to the purchase of real property and the solicitor was privileged in circumstances where the solicitor was being requested to lend the . .
CitedGreat Atlantic Insurance v Home Insurance CA 1981
The defendants sought to enter into evidence one part of a document, but the plaintiffs sought to have the remainder protected through legal professional privilege.
Held: The entirety of the document was privileged, but by disclosing part, the . .
CitedKingston’s (Duchess) Case 1776
The judgment of a court of concurrent jurisdiction, directly upon the point, is as a plea, a bar, or as evidence, conclusive between the same parties coming incidentaly in question in another court for a different purpose. The principle of . .
CitedLobo Machado v Portugal ECHR 20-Feb-1996
One of the characteristics of a fair trial under article 6 is that the proceedings should be ‘adversarial’. The applicant’s right, in an adversarial hearing, to see and reply to material before the court: ‘means in principle the opportunity for the . .
CitedBolton v Liverpool Corporation HL 1833
The defendant sought to inspect the plaintiff’s instructions to his counsel, though not of the advice which counsel gave.
Held: The application was refused. Lord Brougham said: ‘It seems plain, that the course of justice must stop if such a . .
CitedPrice Waterhouse v BCCI Holdings (Luxembourg) SA CA 1992
A claim for legal advice privilege was rejected for reports written by accountants both when the accountants were independent and when they reconstituted themselves as a committee of the client. However, legal advice privilege attaches to all . .
CitedCarpmael v Powis 1846
The court discussed the extent and scope of legal professional privilege: ‘I am of the opinion that the privilege extends to all communications between a solicitor, as such, and his client, relating to matters within the ordinary scope of a . .
CitedRe Highgrade Traders Ltd CA 1984
The court rejected a claim for legal advice privilege in relation to reports commissioned by an insurance company after a suspected arson. The documents were reports prepared by third parties rather than employees of the company. After considering a . .
CitedHerring v Clobery 1842
The court considered whether legal advice privilege should be confined to litigation: ‘But further, I think that restriction of the rule is not consistent with, and not founded on, any sound principle; for it may, and in a great variety of cases . .
CitedHolmes v Baddeley HL 1844
Discussing professional legal privilege, Lord Lyndhurst said: ‘The principle upon which this rule is established is that communications between a party and his professional advisers, with a view to legal proceedings, should be unfettered; and they . .
CitedAnderson v Bank of British Columbia CA 1876
Litigation was threatened against an English bank concerning the conduct of an account kept at the branch of the bank in Oregon. The English bank’s London manager thought it necessary to ascertain the full facts and cabled the branch manager in . .
CitedWaugh v British Railways Board HL 12-Jul-1979
No Litigation Privilege without Dominant Purpose
An internal report had been prepared by two of the Board’s officers two days after a collision involving the death of a locomotive driver, whose widow brought the action and now sought its production.
Held: The court considered litigation . .
CitedDuke of Argyll v Duchess of Argyll HL 1962
The pursuer sought to protect the contents of her diary from publication using the law of confidence.
Held: Lord Reid said: ‘the effect, and indeed the purpose, of the law of confidentiality is to prevent the court from ascertaining the truth . .
CitedSeabrook v British Transport Commission 1959
The practice which has developed to determine the bounds of privilege involves finding the proper point of balance between two opposing imperatives, making the maximum relevant material available to the court of trial and avoiding unfairness to . .
CitedHagart and Burn-Murdoch v Inland Revenue Commissioners HL 1929
The mere lending of money, outside the existence or contemplation of professional help, is outside the ordinary scope of a solicitor’s business . .
CitedPearse v Pearse 2-Jan-1846
Legal privilege was claimed for communications related to transactions concerning the client’s lands and unconnected with any existing or anticipated litigation.
Held: The work done was all part of one transaction of the nature in which . .
CitedWatts and Co v Morrow CA 30-Jul-1991
The plaintiff had bought a house on the faith of the defendant’s report that there were only limited defects requiring repair. In fact the defects were much more extensive. The defendant surveyor appealed against an award of damages after his . .
CitedVentouris v Mountain CA 1991
It is in the interests of the state which provides the court system and its judges at taxpayers’ expense that legal advisers should be able to encourage strong cases and discourage weak cases. ‘It is the protection of confidential communications . .
CitedAM and S Europe Ltd v Commission of The European Communities ECJ 18-May-1982
The court set out the rationale for legal professional privilege: ‘Whether it is described as the right of the client or the duty of the lawyer, this principle has nothing to do with the protection or privilege of the lawyer. It springs essentially . .
CitedSouthwark and Vauxhall Water Company v Quick CA 1878
The water company sued its former engineer. Anticipating the action, documents were prepared for the company’s solicitor’s advice, though one (a shorthand transcript of a conversation between a chimney sweep employed by the company and the company’s . .
CitedBullivant v Attorney-General for Victoria PC 1900
Fraud or dishonesty must be distinctly alleged and as distinctly proved. It must be sufficiently particularised; and it is not sufficiently particularised if the facts pleaded are consistent with innocence.
‘for the perfect administration of . .
CitedParry-Jones v The Law Society CA 1969
The Society had, for regulatory purposes, exercised a power under the 1957 Act to call upon the plaintiff, a solicitor, to produce for inspection accounts and other information relating to the conduct of his clients’ affairs. He sought an injunction . .
CitedNederlandse Reassurantie Groep Holding NV v Bacon and Woodrow Holding 1995
A Dutch corporation had obtained advice from lawyers and other professionals before purchasing share capital in insurance companies. After the purchase the corporation discovered that it was exposed to large losses and began proceedings in . .
CitedMinter v Priest CA 1929
An issue was whether conversations between a solicitor and his client relating to the business of obtaining a loan for the deposit on the purchase of real estate were privileged from disclosure.
Held: They were privileged. The were within to . .
CitedAmin, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department HL 16-Oct-2003
Prisoner’s death – need for full public enquiry
The deceased had been a young Asian prisoner. He was placed in a cell overnight with a prisoner known to be racist, extremely violent and mentally unstable. He was killed. The family sought an inquiry into the death.
Held: There had been a . .
CitedJordan v United Kingdom; McKerr v United Kingdom; similar ECHR 4-May-2001
Proper Investigation of Deaths with Army or Police
Claims were made as regards deaths of alleged terrorists in clashes with the UK armed forces and police. In some cases the investigations necessary to justify the taking of life had been inadequate. Statements made to the inquiry as to the . .
CitedMiddleton, Regina (on the Application of) v Coroner for the Western District of Somerset HL 11-Mar-2004
The deceased had committed suicide in prison. His family felt that the risk should have been known to the prison authorities, and that they had failed to guard against that risk. The coroner had requested an explanatory note from the jury.
Cited by:
CitedBowman v Fels (Bar Council and Others intervening) CA 8-Mar-2005
The parties had lived together in a house owned in the defendant’s name and in which she claimed an interest. The claimant’s solicitors notified NCIS that they thought the defendant had acted illegally in setting off against his VAT liability the . .
CitedKuwait Airways Corporation v Iraqi Airways Company (No 6) CA 16-Mar-2005
The defendant company appealed against an order allowing inspection of documents for which litigation privilege had been claimed. It was said that the defendants had been involved in perjury in previous proceedings between the parties.
Held: . .
CitedBurkle Holdings Ltd v Laing TCC 23-Mar-2005
The parties had each instructed the same solicitor, but now disputed the entitlement of the other to see documents held by the solicitor. . .
CitedMcE, Re; McE v Prison Service of Northern Ireland and Another HL 11-Mar-2009
Complaint was made that the prisoner’s privileged conversations with his solicitors had been intercepted by the police.
Held: The Act made explicit provisions allowing such interception and set out the appropriate safeguards. The interceptions . .
CitedPrudential Plc and Another, Regina (on the Application of) v Special Commissioner of Income Tax and Another Admn 14-Oct-2009
The company had obtained legal advice but had taken it from their accountants. The Revenue sought its disclosure, and the company said that as legal advice it was protected by legal professional privilege.
Held: The material was not protected. . .
CitedPrudential Plc and Another, Regina (on The Application of) v Special Commissioner of Income Tax and Others CA 13-Oct-2010
The court was asked whether advice given by an accountant could be protected against disclosure by legal professional privilege. The company had taken advice from its accountants, and objected to disclosure of that advice to the tax authorities . .
CitedPrudential Plc and Another, Regina (on The Application of) v Special Commissioner of Income Tax and Another SC 23-Jan-2013
The appellants resisted disclosure to the revenue of advice it had received. It claimed legal advice privilege (LAP), though the advice was from its accountants.
Held: (Lords Sumption and Clarke dissenting) LAP applies to all communications . .
CitedFarm Assist Ltd v Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs TCC 12-Dec-2008
The claimant, now in liquidation, sought to have set aside for economic duress the mediated settlement of its dispute with the defendant. The defendant sought disclosure of legal and similar advice given to the claimant.
Held: Paragon Finance . .
CitedBrown, Regina v CACD 29-Jul-2015
The claimant, a patient hld at Rampton Hospital faced charges of attempted murder of two nurses. His lwayers had asked for the right to see their client in private, but eth Hospital objected, insisting on the presence of two nurses at all times. . .

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Legal Professions, Litigation Practice

Leading Case

Updated: 09 November 2021; Ref: scu.219353