Confidentiality of mail to and from legal representatives - advice

This advice provides information about the confidentiality of correspondence between a child and their legal representative.

Introduction

All communications between a client and their legal representative is subject to legal professional privilege and as such is not to be opened or read by anyone other than the intended recipient.

If communications are received from solicitors addressed to clients, or parents, care of a child protection practitioner, they should be forwarded to the intended recipient as soon as possible. This method of exchange should not be encouraged.

Where procedures are in place for persons other than the addressee to open mail routinely, child protection practitioners should check whether the mail is addressed to them before reading the document.

Where a communication is discovered to be privileged, any person beginning to read it must, as soon as they recognise the communication as being from a solicitor or barrister, replace it in the envelope, reseal it and ensure that it is passed to the addressee as quickly as possible. A note should be written on the envelope stating who opened it and that it was opened in accordance with normal mailroom procedures.

The law recognises the privileged nature of communications between a person and their legal advisor. Such communications cannot, without the consent of the client, be used in any proceeding before a court and cannot be required to be disclosed under subpoena.

The Department of Health and Human Services recognises and respects the right of child protection clients and their parents to receive the benefit of confidential and independent legal advice and representation. This may include seeking and receiving advice before case planning meetings, being represented at meetings as well as receiving advice about and being represented at court hearings.

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