Thursday, April 14, 2005


Here is another "world gone mad" example of legislation (this time in the United States) punishing the respectable innocent, in the name of defending us all against crime and terrorism.

This is just one example. Here's another. Lawyers these days, like banks and others governed by Financial Services legislation, are required to "shop" their clients to the authorities if they suspect that they are money laundering or otherwised investing the proceeds of crime. We are supposed to do it without "tipping off" the clients, so we are not even allowed to discuss (and perhaps dispel) the suspicions.

It's nuts to put lawyers - who are in the business of advising their clients how to stay within the law - in a position where clients must treat them as potential policemen.

I was trained to view everything I learned about a client as confidential. Even the fact that someone is my client is confidential - unless he says otherwise. Now I am supposed, not to protect him from the police and advise him how to comply with the law, but to "denounce" him as a suspicious character. It's crazy. To the shame of the profession in England, it has been tamely submitting for a long time. To the credit of the French and Belgian professions, they are fighting to maintain the special lawyer/client relationship of confidentiality and trust.

It is a mark of a totalitarian society that all citizens are required to be policemen and that failure to denounce "suspicious elements" to the State will itself lead to punishment. Increasingly Britain bears that mark.


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