This briefing addresses JUSTICE’s serious concerns with the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill, which amends Part II of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.
The Bill would create an unprecedented power for public bodies (from law enforcement to the Food Standards Agency) to authorise covert operatives to commit criminal offences with impunity. Far from being highly trained in espionage, these individuals are usually ordinary members of the public, many of whom are seasoned, serious criminals. With immunity from prosecution, we are concerned that they may commit crime without restraint. Worse, the authorisation to commit crime may be wrongly given in the first place, creating victims of what may be serious crime. All the more concerning is that the Bill could authorise children and vulnerable individuals to commit criminal conduct, who may find the boundaries incredibly hard to understand. The authorisation could thrust them into dangerous or abusive situations.
JUSTICE considers that the Government has failed to provide ample justification or evidence for many of the measures set out in the Bill, nor demonstrated the need for such an intrusive power. We are therefore not satisfied that the legitimate concerns expressed by Peers on all sides of the House have been answered. As such, JUSTICE maintains that the Bill, unamended, must fail, given the risk of serious violations of the European Convention on Human Rights, which could set the UK apart from accepted international human rights norms. JUSTICE therefore calls for divisions on the following amendments:
- Delete provisions granting immunity;
- Prohibit the use of CHIS as agents provocateurs;
- Prohibit CCAs for children, vulnerable individuals, and victims of trafficking; and
- Mandate prior judicial authorisation for CCA applications by Judicial Commissioners.