February 11, 2008
SCOTTISH lawyers are routinely being bugged by the authorities, an advocate claims.
And Paul McBride QC warned convicted criminals could be freed if evidence of eavesdropping was brought before the courts.
Justice Secretary Jack Straw has launched an inquiry into claims a Labour MP's meetings with a terror suspect were bugged at Woodhill Prison, Milton Keynes.
But McBride believes solicitors in Scotland are subjected to the same covert monitoring, even though it is illegal.
He added: "If it could be proved that the police came into the possession of confidential information given to a solicitor and used it to effect the way they proceeded with a case, it could lead to the case being thrown out."
McBrides aid his concerns were shared by colleagues who, when quizzing clients in highprofile cases, "proceed on the basis that they are being listened to".
He added: "If a criminal is under suspicion and police listen in on their calls, what do they do when they speak to their solicitor?
"Of course they don't stop listening.
"But they should stop because the conversation is confidential."
Straw yesterday faced renewed pressure for a probe in to claims lawyers' legally protected conversations with clients in jail are often bugged.
Liberal Democrat spokesman Chris Huhne has called on Straw to make clear how widespread the eavesdropping was and the extent of ministers' knowledge.
Labour MP Sadiq Khan's case sparked controversy amid suggestions it breached a ban on bugging MPs.
Now the Tories and Lib Dems are demanding a fresh probe into claims by an unnamed whistleblower that it was part of a wider practice.
The individual said "hundreds" of meetings with lawyers had been bugged at Woodhill.
Murderers and other category-A prisoners were said to have been targeted.
The Justice Ministry said covert listening was "a matter for the police and is undertaken in line with the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000".
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