The British government has admitted that its practice of spying on confidential communications between lawyers and their clients was a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Details of the controversial snooping emerged in November: lawyers suing Blighty over its rendition of two Libyan families to be tortured by the late and unlamented Gaddafi regime claimed Her Majesty’s own lawyers seemed to have access to the defense team’s emails.
The families’ briefs asked for a probe by the secretive Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), a move that led to Wednesday’s admission.
“The concession the government has made today relates to the agencies’ policies and procedures governing the handling of legally privileged communications and whether they are compatible with the ECHR,” a government spokesman said in a statement to the media, via the Press Association.
“In view of recent IPT judgments, we acknowledge that the policies applied since 2010 have not fully met the requirements of the ECHR, specifically Article 8. This includes a requirement that safeguards are made sufficiently public.”
The guidelines revealed by the investigation showed that MI5 – which handles the UK’s domestic security – had free reign to spy on highly private and sensitive lawyer-client conversations between April 2011 and January 2014.