Economic Crime Bill may confuse the role of lawyers, says Bar Council
Provisions in the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill (published today) to add a regulatory objective to the Legal Services Act 2007 (LSA) may be incompatible with barristers’ duties and risk confusing the role of lawyers, warns the Bar Council.
The Bill would add a regulatory objective in relation to promoting the prevention and detection of economic crimes to the LSA meaning the BSB and LSB would have to create a new workstream to their regulatory duties, at additional cost which may have to be passed onto clients.
The Bar Council opposes the inclusion of the regulatory objective as it is not the role of legal professionals to prevent or detect crime. Although the intention is that the objective does not affect the right to access legal advice and representation it is unclear how it would be compatible with the role of lawyers in advising or representing their clients.
In addition, the legal professions are already subject to legislation on anti-money laundering which is suited to the legal sector. The broad-brush approach of a new regulatory objective is unlikely to have an impact on tackling economic crime.
Commenting, Mark Fenhalls KC, Chair of the Bar Council, said:
“Tackling economic crime is essential but creating more regulation will do nothing to address the problem.
“The legal professions are already subject to targeted anti-money laundering legislation and a new regulatory objective may not be compatible with our role in representing clients. At worst it sends the wrong message to the general public about the role of lawyers.
“We’re calling on the Government to amend the Bill as it passes through Parliament. Government should focus on the real problem – fix the issues with Action Fraud and properly fund the investigation and prosecution of economic crime.”