The right to confidentiality of communications between a lawyer and a client during investigation of EU competition law violations: the aspect of the status of a lawyer
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For the purposes of this article, the right to confidentiality of communications between a lawyer and a client (legal professional privilege) is analysed and understood as a rule under which, in judicial or administrative proceedings, the content of communications between a lawyer and his client shall not be disclosed; if this rule is breached, the content of the communications in question is not treated as evidence in the process. Legal professional privilege is related to several articles of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The European Court of Human Rights has found that the violation of the right of an accused to communicate with a lawyer without a third party departs from Article 6(3)(c) of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms which entitles to defend oneself in person or through a legal assistant. This kind of communication also relates to the Article 8 of the Convention, which provides a right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence. In the opinion of the European Court of Human Rights, according to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms there is no difference if a lawyer representing a client is a practitioner or not. However, when dealing with the violations of EU competition law, the Court of Justice of the European Union acknowledges the protection of legal professional privilege only with regard to the communications between an accused companies and an independent lawyer (who does not work for his client on an employment contract basis). When the protection of legal professional privilege is not granted for communications of the accused company with its own legal personnel, a question may arise whether it is considered that sufficient level of confidentiality is ensured for these companies.
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