Our Statement to the Bar Council re: Home Office hacking phone calls to clients

The Habeas Corpus Project is extremely dissapointed to learn that immigration officials have been permitted to hack the phones of refugees and asylum seekers, some of whom are rape and torture victims, including conversations with their legal representatives such as the Habeas Corpus Project.

In response to this revelation, the Habeas Corpus Project have submitted the following statement to the Bar Council and Bar Standards Board, our regulatory authority. We look forward to their response.

To: The Bar Council and Bar Standards Board

Dear Sirs,

We at the Habeas Corpus Project wish to register our profound concern and alarm at the news that the Home Office has been granted powers to allow immigration officers to hack the phones of refugees and asylum seekers. It is understood that, following an amendment of the Police Act 1997, the Home Office now has the power of “property interference, including interference with equipment”. In practical terms, this allows them to hack the phones and computers of individuals and even to place listening devices in homes, cars and detention centres.

The Habeas Corpus Project is a charity that provides pro bono legal representation to people held unlawfully within the UK immigration detention estate. Our clients are often extremely vulnerable people whose cases involve deeply sensitive material. Many are survivors of rape, torture, human trafficking and are suffering from PTSD. This power is a gross invasion of their privacy, but more alarmingly, it will profoundly undermine the lawyer-client relationship of confidentiality which is one of the pillars that underpins their confidence in the representation they receive from us.

We believe this development to be hugely discriminatory and a gross and unjustified abuse of Parliamentary powers. It absolutely interferes with our clients’ right to free and independent legal representation. Given this, the Habeas Corpus Project would urge the Bar Standards Board to speak out against this development and place pressure upon Parliament to reverse this deeply alarming development. This is a matter of deep concern to many barristers. Therefore we believe that the Bar Standards Board ought to add its voice to the chorus of criticism that has met this latest erosion of an individual’s right to have communications with their legal representatives guarded by legal profession privilege.

Yours faithfully,

Habeas Corpus Project

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