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Privilege

From Academic Kids

A privilege—etymologically "private law" or law relating to a specific individual—is an honour, or permissive activity granted by another person or even a government. A privilege is not a right and in some cases can be revoked. For example in most countries driving on publicly-maintained roads is a privilege, if one violates certain rules driving privileges can be revoked.

Defining the difference between a 'privilege' and a 'right' is difficult. In authentic democracies a 'privilege' is granted to a few after birth, and a 'right' is an entitlement to all mankind from birth. A privileged class, in less-than-perfect democracies, is often embodied in power and wealth. Compare elite.

One of the objectives of the French Revolution was the abolition of privileges. This meant the removal of separate laws for different social classes (nobility, clergy and ordinary people), and subjecting everyone to the same common law.

Exclusionary privilege

Privilege is also a term describing rules excluding evidence that would be adverse to a fundamental principle or relationship if it were disclosed. Examples of privilege include legal professional privilege, privilege against self-incrimination, and marital privilege.

Privileged communications are excluded because their disclosure is inimical to a fundamental principle or relationship that society deems worthy of preserving and fostering even at the expense of truth ascertainment in litigation. There is constant tension between the competing values which various privileges promote, and the need for all relevant evidence to be adduced in litigation.

The vast majority of privilege claims are raised at the interlocutory stages of civil proceedings. In comparison to its significance in pre-trial evidence gathering processes, the operation of privilege as an exclusionary principle during trials is entirely minor. Common law privilege can be characterised as a bar to compulsory process for the obtaining of evidence rather than a rule of inadmissibility.

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