Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill

Home Office written question – answered on 5th October 2020.

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Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Conservative, Sutton Coldfield

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether officials of her Department engaged with their US counterparts on the FBI’s policy expressly limiting the crimes which its covert human intelligence sources may commit when preparing the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Minister of State, Home Department

A covert human intelligence source (CHIS) will never be given authority to commit any and all crime. All authorisations must be necessary and proportionate to the criminality they are seeking to prevent and the Authorising Officer must ensure that the level of criminality authorised must be at the lowest level of intrusion possible to achieve the aims of the operation.

There are limits to the activity that can be authorised under this Bill and these are contained in the Human Rights Act. This includes the right to life, and prohibition of torture or subjecting someone to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The Bill does not list specific crimes which may be authorised, or prohibited, as to do so would place into the hands of criminals, terrorists and hostile states a means of creating a checklist for suspected CHIS to be tested against. This would threaten the future of the CHIS capability, and result in an increased threat to the public.

With regards to international comparisons, different countries have different legal systems, threat pictures and operational practices which means that simply comparing respective legislation gives only a very partial picture. In the course of developing this Bill, officials have engaged with a variety of stakeholders, including US counterparts.

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