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Disclosure in Public Interest The concept of disclosure in the public interest serves as a critical exception to the principles of confidentiality and legal professional privilege, rooted in the belief that the public’s right to know can, in certain circumstances, outweigh the duty of confidentiality owed by a professional to their client. This exception is not taken lightly and is governed by specific criteria that must be met before such disclosure is deemed justifiable. The UK’s legal framework, including the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA), provides a structured approach to whistleblowing, ensuring that individuals who disclose information in the belief that it is substantially in the public interest are protected from retaliation. However, the application of this principle in the context of legal professional privilege is more nuanced, as illustrated by the case of R (on the application of Jet2.com Ltd) v Civil Aviation Authority [2020] EWCA Civ 35. In Jet2.com Ltd v Civil Aviation Authority, the Court of Appeal dealt with the issue of whether communications between a company and its legal advisers, ostensibly for the purpose of seeking legal advice but also containing material related to public safety concerns, could be protected by legal professional privilege. The facts of the case revolved around a draft audit report discussing compliance with safety regulations, which the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) intended to publish. Jet2.com argued that certain communications related to the draft report were privileged. The judgment, however, clarified that legal professional privilege does not extend to documents that are prepared with the dual purpose of seeking legal advice and discussing issues of public safety, which are inherently in the public interest. The court held that where the public interest in disclosure outweighs the interest in maintaining confidentiality, such as in matters of public safety, privilege may not apply. This case underscores the delicate balance courts must maintain between respecting the confidentiality inherent in legal professional privilege and recognizing the paramount importance of public interest, especially in matters concerning public safety or potential wrongdoing. It highlights that while legal professional privilege is a fundamental aspect of the legal profession, it is not absolute and can be overridden when the disclosure serves a greater public good. The principle of disclosure in the public interest, therefore, represents a necessary exception to the rules of confidentiality and privilege, ensuring that the legal framework remains adaptable to situations where the need to protect the public transcends the need to preserve confidentiality. This exception, while seemingly broad, is applied judiciously, with courts carefully considering the implications of each case to ensure that the exception does not undermine the very foundations of legal professional privilege and confidentiality. For further reading on the Jet2.com case, the full judgment can be accessed here: [R (on the application of Jet2.com Ltd) v Civil Aviation Authority [2020] EWCA Civ 35](https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2020/35.html).

Question from igig, Disclosure in Public Interest

The concept of disclosure in the public interest serves as a critical exception to the principles of confidentiality and legal professional privilege, rooted in the belief that the public’s right to know can, in certain circumstances, outweigh the duty of confidentiality owed by a professional to their client. This exception is not taken lightly and is governed by specific criteria that must be met before such disclosure is deemed justifiable. The UK’s legal framework, including the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA), provides a structured approach to whistleblowing, ensuring that individuals who disclose information in the belief that it is substantially in the public interest are protected from retaliation. However, the application of this principle in the context of legal professional privilege is more nuanced, as illustrated by the case of R (on the application of Jet2.com Ltd) v Civil Aviation Authority [2020] EWCA Civ 35.

In Jet2.com Ltd v Civil Aviation Authority, the Court of Appeal dealt with the issue of whether communications between a company and its legal advisers, ostensibly for the purpose of seeking legal advice but also containing material related to public safety concerns, could be protected by legal professional privilege. The facts of the case revolved around a draft audit report discussing compliance with safety regulations, which the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) intended to publish. Jet2.com argued that certain communications related to the draft report were privileged. The judgment, however, clarified that legal professional privilege does not extend to documents that are prepared with the dual purpose of seeking legal advice and discussing issues of public safety, which are inherently in the public interest. The court held that where the public interest in disclosure outweighs the interest in maintaining confidentiality, such as in matters of public safety, privilege may not apply.

This case underscores the delicate balance courts must maintain between respecting the confidentiality inherent in legal professional privilege and recognizing the paramount importance of public interest, especially in matters concerning public safety or potential wrongdoing. It highlights that while legal professional privilege is a fundamental aspect of the legal profession, it is not absolute and can be overridden when the disclosure serves a greater public good.

The principle of disclosure in the public interest, therefore, represents a necessary exception to the rules of confidentiality and privilege, ensuring that the legal framework remains adaptable to situations where the need to protect the public transcends the need to preserve confidentiality. This exception, while seemingly broad, is applied judiciously, with courts carefully considering the implications of each case to ensure that the exception does not undermine the very foundations of legal professional privilege and confidentiality.

For further reading on the Jet2.com case, the full judgment can be accessed here: [R (on the application of Jet2.com Ltd) v Civil Aviation Authority [2020] EWCA Civ 35](https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2020/35.html).

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