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For this exemption to apply, section 60 does not seem to require absolute proof of the

existence of the privilege but a plausible claim to such privilege will suffice in light of the

drafting of “in respect of which a claim to legal professional privilege could be

maintained in law”. The validity or otherwise of the claim is ultimately a matter for the

Court not the Commissioner to decide.


This exemption operates to protect privileged information held by a party to litigation

from being accessed by the opponent, sometimes motivated by the ulterior intent of

fishing for useful information.


In a complaint handled by the Commissioner in which a defendant of an ongoing

litigation made a data access request to the plaintiff’s solicitors for “all data held by you

in respect of myself and all personal data passed by you to third parties”, information

containing the personal data of the defendant was directly or indirectly obtained by the

plaintiff’s solicitors from their client in the conduct of the litigation and used in the course

of legitimate legal enquiries. On the basis that such personal data was held and used by

the solicitors in relation to an ongoing litigation and held in their legal capacity as legal

advisor to the plaintiff, the Commissioner came to the view that a claim for legal

professional privilege could be maintained in law, and hence the section 60 exemption

was properly invoked to refuse such data access request.


In another case handled by the Commissioner, an individual sought from his insurer, by

means of a data access request under section 18(1)(b), a copy of the loss adjuster’s

report prepared for his claim for compensation relating to a car accident. The insurer

refused to comply with the data access request on the grounds that the personal data

in the said report was exempt from being accessed by virtue of legal professional

privilege. Despite the fact that the insurer honoured the claim subsequently without

going through any litigation, there was evidence to show that the insurer had found the

claim suspicious and therefore had the report prepared with the dominant purpose to

seek legal advice in relation to the contemplated litigation. The Commissioner came to

the view that the report could be protected by legal professional privilege and that the

section 60 exemption was properly invoked. The same reasoning applies in respect of

medical reports obtained by an insurance company when litigation is contemplated for

the purpose of seeking legal advice in response to an insurance claim lodged by the



The Commissioner is of the view that section 60 also applies to legal advice given to the

data users by their internal legal advisors. In a case handled by the Commissioner, an

individual made a complaint to a statutory body and applied for legal assistance from

the statutory body in relation to the complaint. The statutory body subsequently turned

down the complaint and the application. The individual made a data access request to

the statutory body pursuant to section 18(1) for information in relation to her complaint

and application. Pursuant to the request, the statutory body provided certain

documents to the individual but refused to disclose certain parts of the documents to

the individual by relying on section 60. Since the parts which the statutory body refused

to disclose to the individual were legal advice given by the body’s internal legal

department in relation to the complaint and the application, the Commissioner was of

the view that the exemption under section 60 was available to the statutory body.