Lawyer-client privilege

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Under English law, communication between a lawyer (barrister, solicitor, or some other professional legal advisor) relating to particular legal proceedings are privileged, to the extent that the lawyer cannot be compelled to disclose the communciation without permission of the client. This privilege has existed for a long time -- at least since the 16th century -- and is usually rigorously upheld by the courts, even when it is clearly not in the interests of justice. A particular problem arises where a defendant in a criminal trial has found out that a co-defendant made a statement to his lawyer, and that statement would exculpate (that is, argue against the guilt of) the defendant. If the co-defendant refuses to waive privilege, there is little that the defendant can do. This is particularly unjust when the co-defendant has pleaded guilty, and has nothing to lose by disclosure, and a number of cases in the 1970s and 1980s showed a willingness of the courts to order disclosure when to do otherwise would be mainfestly unjust. However, in the recent case of RVDerbyMagistratesExParteB1995 the House of lords stated categorically that the privilege was absolute.