Exchanges between lawyers and their clients are being routinely intercepted according to papers released by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT). The documents show MI5, MI6 and GCHQ accessed communications that gave the government “an unfair advantage akin to playing poker in a hall of mirrors” in criminal cases.
Twenty-eight examples of the security services accessing legally privileged material came to light after two Libyan men applied to the IPT. Abdel-Hakim Belhaj and Sami Al Saadi, claim the security service MI6 conspired with the CIA to abduct them and hand them over to Colonel Gaddafi in 2004. They say that once they were held by the former Libyan dictator they were tortured.
The former shadow home secretary David Davis told the Guardian security services are supposed to delete any privileged material they come across when undertaking surveillance. However, there is evidence that some documents may have ended up being used in a case, thus undermining the trial.
Rachel Logan from Amnesty UK said: “We now know that the government sees nothing wrong in routinely spying on the confidential communication between lawyers and clients. This clearly violates an age-old principle of English law: that the correspondence between a person and their lawyer is confidential. It could mean, amazingly, that the government uses information they have got from snooping on you, against you, in a case you have brought.”
The news comes after Breitbart London reported that police are using their power to spy on journalists. Both these cases have fuelled concerns that the authorities are overstepping the mark with the surveillance they are undertaking.