Section 43(1) Legal Professional Privilege – improper purpose exception
The applicant sought access to a valuation obtained by the former Pine River Shire Council (PRSC). The valuation related to a compensation claim regarding the PRSC’s resumption of a portion of land from its owners, the Chapmans, for roadworks. At the time of the resumption, Mrs Chapman was the Mayor of PRSC.
The valuation was communicated from the valuer to PRSC’s Shire Solicitor, and then from the Shire Solicitor to a private law firm instructed to act on PRSC’s behalf. Assistant Commissioner Henry found that on each occasion, the valuation was communicated during the course of lawyer-client relationship, was and remained confidential, and was made for the dominant purpose of PRSC receiving legal advice. On this basis, Assistant Commissioner Henry found that the valuation attracted legal professional privilege and qualified for exemption from disclosure under section 43(1) of the Freedom of Information Act 1992 (Qld).
As the applicant’s submissions raised issues or impropriety and/or illegality, Assistant Commissioner Henry considered the qualification or exception to legal professional privilege known as the improper purpose exception. After careful consideration of all available information, Assistant Commissioner Henry was unable to identify any prima facie evidence that the valuation was created in preparation for, or in furtherance of, an illegal or improper purpose. Accordingly, Assistant Commissioner Henry found that the improper purpose exception did not operate to prevent legal professional privilege from attaching to the valuation.