Amendment 22

Part of Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill - Committee (3rd Day) – in the House of Lords at 2:15 pm on 3rd December 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Massey of Darwen Baroness Massey of Darwen Labour 2:15 pm, 3rd December 2020

My Lords, in speaking to Amendment 25, I shall put the views expressed by the Joint Committee on Human Rights in Chapter 5 of its report on the Bill. I am a member of that committee.

The amendment seeks to limit the use of criminal conduct authorisations to protecting national security and preventing crime. The JCHR report accepts that authorising criminal conduct may, in certain circumstances,

“be necessary and proportionate in the interests of national security or for the purpose of preventing or detecting serious crime.”

These were the purposes considered by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal when it approved MI5’s policy in the third direction challenge, and are the purposes highlighted by the Home Office in the Explanatory Notes. However, the Bill also permits CCAs to be made for the purpose of preventing disorder and for the economic well-being of the United Kingdom, as was mentioned before. The report says:

“It is difficult to understand why it is necessary to include ‘preventing disorder’ as a potential justification for authorising criminal conduct. Serious disorder would amount to a crime … and therefore be covered by the purpose of ‘preventing crime’. Any non-criminal disorder would not be serious enough to justify the use of criminality to prevent it.”

The NGOs Reprieve, the Pat Finucane Centre, Privacy International, the Committee on the Administration of Justice, Rights and Security International and Big Brother Watch raised concerns that the Bill could allow for CCAs to be granted in relation to

“the activities of Trade Unions, anti-racism campaigns and environmental campaigns that have been the site of illegitimate CHIS activity in the past.”

The report concludes:

“The purposes for which criminal conduct can be authorised should be limited to national security and the detection or prevention of crime” and that

“the power to authorise criminal conduct as contained in the Bill is far too extensive”.