Privilege (evidence)

An evidentiary privilege is a rule of evidence that allows the holder of the privilege to refuse to provide evidence about a certain subject or to bar such evidence from being disclosed or used in a judicial or other proceeding.


One well known privilege is the solicitor–client privilege, referred to as the attorney–client privilege in the United States and as the legal professional privilege in Australia. This protects confidential communications between a client and his or her legal adviser for the dominant purpose of legal advice.[1] The rationale is that clients ought to be able to communicate freely with their lawyers, in order to facilitate the proper functioning of the legal system.

Other common forms include privilege against compelled self-incrimination (in other proceedings), without prejudice privilege (protecting communications made in the course of negotiations to settle a legal dispute), public interest privilege (formerly Crown privilege, protecting documents for which secrecy is necessary for the proper functioning of government), marital privilege, medical professional privilege, and clergy–penitent privilege.

In the US, several states have enacted the Uniform Mediation Act (UMA) which specifies a mediator's privilege with regard to state procedures.

In the United Kingdom, the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 provides that evidence relating to spent convictions (those in respect of which the Act says the convicted person is rehabilitated, generally older and less serious ones) is inadmissible, and provides privilege against answering questions relating to such convictions; although some exceptions apply, in particular in criminal proceedings.[2]


The effect of the privilege is usually a right on the part of a party to a case, allowing him to prevent evidence from being introduced in the form of testimony from the person to whom the privilege runs. For example, a person can generally prevent his or her attorney from testifying about the legal relationship between attorney and client, even if the attorney were willing to do so. In a few instances, such as the marital privilege, the privilege is a right held by the potential witness. Thus, if a wife wishes to testify against her husband, she may do so even if he opposes this testimony; however, the wife has the privilege of refusing to testify even if the husband wishes her to do so.

See also


  1. Esso Australia Resources Limited v The Commissioners of Taxation (1999) 201 CLR 49;168 ALR 123
  2. UK Parliament. Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, s. 4(1) as amended (see also enacted form), from

External links

Look up privilege in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
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