Clause 1 - Authorisation of criminal conduct

Part of Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill – in the House of Commons at 1:30 pm on 15th October 2020.

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Photo of Bob Neill Bob Neill Chair, Justice Committee, Chair, Justice Committee 1:30 pm, 15th October 2020

My right hon. Friend makes a fair point in that regard. The DPP would be entitled to do that as a matter of course, using the public interest test that would ordinarily apply. We all might concede that that is not an unreasonable proposition under the circumstances. Again, we need more justification from the Minister, as far as that is concerned.

I know that the Minister wants to get this Bill into the best possible shape, and I thank him for his welcome and constructive engagement with me over the last few weeks. I do not want him to think that I am being churlish by raising these points, but it is desirable that we get these matters right, as far as we can. He and I are in much the same place in spirit, but it is about how we can get things right in practice.

Finally, I return to amendment 14. The point was well made—dare I say it, I think the Minister made the opposing case very well—that if the test of reasonable belief is important enough to put in the guidance, it is important enough to put in statute. Anyone who has practised in criminal law will know that reasonableness of belief can be pretty important in determining whether the elements of an offence or a defence are made out, and the Government would do no harm by putting that in the Bill. I hope that the Minister will reflect on that and the other matters that I have raised, and I hope he will recognise that I have done so in the spirit of constructive discussion and in an endeavour to improve the Bill, rather than to obstruct its overall purpose.