Attorney-client privilege is crucial to jurisprudence, and any restrictions on it must take into account a person’s right to a fair trial and the principle of proportionality, new Justice Minister Marios Hartsiotis said on Tuesday.

He made the remarks addressing a conference organised by the Bar Association headlined Attorney-Client Privilege and European Case Law.

The concept of attorney-client privilege, Hartsiotis said, refers to the protection of every confidential piece of information that lawyers come into possession of during the course of their professional activity and in association with their clients.

“This protection plays a vital role in someone’s right to a fair trial, and constitutes a fundamental right within the EU legal framework,” he noted.

The concept of attorney-client privilege is recognised in various legal instruments and documents of the EU, including the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Also, it is covered by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In Cyprus, the concept is covered in the constitution, and by the ethics guidelines for attorneys.

“In certain extreme circumstances, attorney-client privilege may be subject to restrictions or exemptions,” the minister said. “However, every such restriction or exemption should be considered in light of the right to a fair trial and the principle of proportionality.”

Hartsiotis said his ministry will await “with interest” the conclusions and recommendations coming out of the workshop.

Also attending the conference was Attorney-general Giorgos Savvides.

Michael Vorkas, the head of the Bar Association, noted this was the first-ever conference held in Cyprus on the issue of attorney-client privilege.

He said the Bar Association has already conveyed its views on the matter to the president during a meeting they had last November.

In his own remarks, former chairman of the supreme court Myron Nicolatos said domestic legislation as well as case law does constrain attorney-client privilege.

He cited Law 91(I) of 2014, governing the prevention and combating of the sexual abuse and exploitation of minors and child pornography.

That law provides that anyone failing to report any such information brought to their attention is committing a criminal offence and liable to jail and/or a fine if convicted. The law explicitly states that a lawyer cannot cite attorney-client privilege as a defence for omitting to report to authorities such information.