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 David Davis David Davis Conservative, Haltemprice and Howden 1:30 pm, 15th October 2020

I will say a couple of things on that. First, if the gangster is smart enough to read the Act, he is smart enough to read the Human Rights Act. Secondly, I put a specific reference in amendment 13 to the Director of Public Prosecutions, so that if my hon. Friend is in such a circumstance and he has to do something violent to prevent himself being killed, that is an exoneration for the DPP. So it specifically allows that clouding, if you like, of the judgment. I draw his attention to the intervention in The Times last week—I was going to mention it later, but I will mention it now—by one of the best DPPs of modern times, Lord Ken Macdonald. He is not of my politics, but he is very, very experienced and he knows all about these things. He described this as Soprano-watching judgments and Soprano-watching logic. I am afraid that I agree with him, and I will come back and illustrate why in a second.

Officers in the intelligence and policing agencies can face huge pressure to authorise improper criminal activity, particularly when the demands on the agencies themselves become enormous. We saw that after 9/11, when after the dodgy dossier we had all the rendition issues. I always said in those days that we should not prosecute the individuals, because they were trying to prevent a 9/11 happening in Canary Wharf, but it was still wrong. Those morally indefensible actions by the state and their agents occur at the darkest times in our history, and we must remember that. We must write our laws to cope with the darkest times in our history, which is what we are trying to do here today.

I will pick an example which hon. Members from Northern Ireland will say cannot happen now—and they are right, but I want to use it as an illustration. The example is the murder in 1989 of the prominent Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane, who was shot 14 times as he sat down for Sunday dinner with his wife and three children. It emerged that the loyalist groups responsible for the murder of Finucane had been infiltrated by UK intelligence operatives. The 2012 review of the killing found collusion by the UK state in identifying, targeting and murdering Mr Finucane. It also found that the state supplied the weapon and facilitated its disappearance following the murder. The inquiry also found that senior Army officers deliberately lied to criminal investigators and the Royal Ulster Constabulary. special branch was responsible for seriously obstructing the investigation. As a result, David Cameron, as Prime Minister, apologised for the actions of the British state.

Of course, that was not the only violation that occurred during the troubles, and we all know the terrible pressures that applied to everyone, even people in this House, during that time, but that is what we have to accommodate, from rendition to murder, not at the behest of the state but with the acquiescence of the state.