16 November 2012

Uganda: Law Society Protests Police Raid on Member's Law Firm

The Uganda Law Society has labeled the Police's raid on the premises of M/S O.N Osinde and Co Advocates on Nov. 13 "discourteous and unwarranted."

The body which brings together all practicing lawyers in Uganda called the action "an attack on the decency of the legal profession and an unjustified intrusion in the privacy of other firm's clients not the subject of an investigation.

According to a statement from the Uganda Law Society, a group of police officers from the Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Department (CIID), unannounced, appeared at the offices of M/S O.N Osinde and Co. Advocates, randomly searched and carried away unspecified volumes of the firm's client's files.

However, the lawyers' body contends that although it is the mandate of the Uganda Police Force's efforts to investigate and bring to account people suspected to have stolen public funds, there has to be common decency and courtesy maintained especially towards officers of the court.

"The Uganda Law Society is cognizant of the powers of the Police Force to carry out searches under the Anti-Corruption Act but in exercising such powers, the police must take into account the confidentiality nature of a client-advocate relationship - a hallmark of legal practice and the basis for ensuring public confidence in the practice of law," a statement from the Uganda Law Society reads in part.

"The police ought to be aware that a law firm holds private and confidential information of many clients and for police to carry out a random search is to prowl through various other documents and files of the firm's clients who may not be a subject of their investigation is illegal and an invasion of privacy protected by the Constitution."

Such behaviour, the law society notes, is an appalling and unacceptable intrusion into an advocate-client relationship, and makes a mockery of the fundamental principle of advocate-client confidentiality by which advocates are bound.

"It shows a grave lack of respect for the justice system, as the advocate-client privilege lies at the core of this system," the statement says.

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