06 October 2020
The Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill would, if approved, give explicit legal permission for certain state agents to commit crimes in the course of their duties, but does not specify which crimes are covered. There is fierce opposition to the proposed measures.
The Bill was introduced by the government following a ruling by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) that found the so-called 'Third Direction', a secret order which allowed MI5 agents to commit unspecified crimes, was lawful - but the judges in the IPT were divided 3-2 and that ruling is now the subject of an appeal.
A briefing on the new Bill, produced by the four NGOs that brought the IPT case, notes that while the proposal "represents a belated recognition that regulating the permitted conduct of CHIS [Covert Human Intelligence Sources] must be set up by a formal legislative footing," it has numerous shortcomings:
These issues are examined in detail in the briefing. See: Briefing for second reading of the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill (pdf produced by Reprieve, Privacy International, Pat Finucane Centre and Committee on the Administration of Justice)
The number of authorities that would be able to apply for authorisation to commit crimes under the Bill is broad, covering:
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