News / Member News

Professional Confidentiality v Information Sharing Protocol

By SLAS Spokesperson

A number of members have drawn attention to an item currently found on the Law Society website and which has been greeted with phrases such as “exceedingly sinister” and “violation of professional privilege” and “I was stunned” and “my jaw dropped” and “I felt quite sick” and we concluded that this item might be of interest to the membership at large.  It is an Information Sharing Protocol (ISP) under which it appears that the Law Society will share with police authorities information gleaned from solicitors’ files. 

The one piece of information we are not allowed to share, it would appear, is the Information Sharing Protocol itself which, we are advised, contains its own prohibition against publication.  We therefore produce the link below so that members can access this document themselves and we look forward to receiving further comment.  The link is: Information Sharing Protocol

 

Following publication of the above item, we received the following from Kevin Lang at the Law Society:-

Further to our telephone conversation, I am writing to express my confusion at the second paragraph of the article you wrote for the SLAS website titled “Professional Confidentiality v Information Sharing Protocol”.

Specifically, I don’t understand how you can state there is a prohibition against the publication of the protocol given you then provide a link to the part of the Law Society website in which the protocol is in fact published.  As you may know, a link to the information sharing protocol was emailed to our 10,500 members through our ebulletin in September.  We also issued a media release in August, which is available on the Society website and which was picked up by the legal as well as general interest press.

Whatever the views about the contents of the protocol, I am struggling to see how anyone could suggest that it was not published or could not be published, given the level of publicity we gave it at the time and the fact that, as your own article admits, it is available in full for all to see on our website.

Many thanks for your time earlier and for considering these points.

Wishing you all the very best for Christmasand the New Year

Kevin Lang

Director of Communications, Marketing &Public Affairs

The Law Society of Scotland

  

Kevin is, of course, correct in every detail.  Our correspondent was, presumably, simply referring to the statement on the front page of the Information Sharing Protocol which states "no copying allowed, in any form, without prior written permission from the Director General, except as permitted under the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988."  It is confusing to be faced with a prohibition of copying a document which is already in the public domain, but it was not of our making.

Comments

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The ISP is a locked document that cannot be hard copied and contains a warning on its front page not to copy without consent. I do not think I am alone in finding that that is most irritating as I much prefer not to read only on line and find it difficult to digest and dissect without a hard copy. I have asked the DG of SCDEA to grant me permission to copy it but so far he has not responded . The prohibition is pointless and I would like the LSS to get a general waiver for all solicitors to download hard copies.
I share the concerns expressed by some members about the effect of ISP on confidentiality so the sooner I can see the hard copy I will know if my fears are well founded.



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