28 July 2020
The UK's foreign intelligence agency, MI6, has apologised to human rights groups after pressuring court staff to withold evidence in a case concerning a policy that allows state agents to commit serious crimes.
Press release from Reprieve: MI6 apologise for asking court staff to withhold evidence from Judges (link):
"MI6 has been forced to apologise to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal after two of its officers asked court staff to return documents relating to MI6’s use of agents and not show them to judges. The Tribunal suggested MI6’s actions were “inappropriate interference”.
The revelation emerged in an ongoing legal case considering what crimes intelligence informants are allowed to commit, after it was revealed that MI5 maintains a secret policy under which agents can be “authorised” to commit offences. The case was brought by Reprieve, the Pat Finucane Centre, Privacy International, and the Committee on the Administration of Justice.
At today’s hearing, the Tribunal concluded: “It was recognised that the direct communication that took place was inappropriate, an apology was given, and it was clearly recognised that nothing like this should happen in the future… and that something serious had gone wrong.” It declined to investigate further or seek additional disclosure from MI6.
MI6 sought to prevent the court from seeing secret inspection reports of the Investigatory Powers Commissioner, believed to detail MI6’s use of agents overseas. These were handed over to the Tribunal by the Commissioner."
In an email sent to supporters, Privacy International, another of the groups bringing the case against MI6, noted that:
"This is not the first time the UK intelligence agencies resisted revealing information to the IPT. In another PI case before the IPT in 2017, GCHQ was subject to cross examination because of its disclosure failures... Such interference with judicial proceedings has no place in a mature democracy."
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