UK Supreme Court rejects extending legal advice privilege to the accounting profession

In R (on the application of Prudential plc and another) (Appellants) v Special Commissioner of Income Tax and another (Respondents) [2013] UKSC 1, the UK Supreme Court rejected, by a margin of 5-2, the proposition that legal advice privilege should be extended to the accounting (or other) professions, even in circumstances where legal advice is ordinarily provided by members of that profession.

The Supreme Court has also released a summary of its judgment.

In short, the Court held that legal advice privilege should not be extended to communications in connection with advice given by professional people other than lawyers, even where that advice is legal advice which that professional person is qualified to give.

In the Court’s view, doing so would extend legal advice privilege beyond what are currently, and have for a long time been, understood to be its limits and doing so to any case where legal advice is given by a person who is a member of a profession which ordinarily includes the giving of legal advice would be likely to lead to a clear and well understood principle becoming uncertain, because it would be unclear which occupations would be members of a profession for such a purpose.

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