Forlorn young girl looks out into distance

Child spies could be used to keep surveillance on their parents and other adults in their lives, thanks to a new Act that was given the green light this month. Dubbed as one of the most disturbing pieces of legislation in British history, the Covert Human Intelligence Sources Act (CHIS) will allow the police and other government authorities to use children as informants against their parents.

Not only can children be used to inform on people, they can also be permitted to commit crimes as part of the law. 

This risks putting children in dangerous situations because there is no provision in the law to protect trafficked children, kids in care homes, or refugee children from being used as pawns by public bodies. 

How can children be at risk under the Covert Human Intelligence Sources Act (CHIS)?

distressed girl puts her head in her lap

The Covert Human Intelligence Sources Act (CHIS) puts children at risk

 

Earlier this year, the Investigatory Powers Commissioner confirmed that child spies could be coerced into spying on violent gangs. It also allows designated government agencies to use victims of child sexual abuse who are trying to escape. 

Children can also be used to inform on their parents.

Potential Police Abuses Under CHIS?

Policeman uses long lens to spy into the distance from his car

The CHIS can pave the way for police abuses

 

But that is not the only disturbing element of the law.

The same Act also allows police and other government officials to commit crimes including rape, trafficking, and even murder as part of ‘investigations’ with no risk of being prosecuted. Officials will also be able to father children or disrupt families if it is deemed ‘necessary’ for their work.

It’s not difficult to find examples of this from the past. One of the most well-known cases occurred with Bob Lambert, an undercover police officer. He infiltrated an animal rights group and secretly fathered children with women there before later completely disappearing from their lives. 

He served in the controversial Special Demonstration Squad and posed as a left-wing animal rights activist. As a result, both the woman and her child needed psychiatric treatment as a result, and both have been awarded damages against the Police.

Under the Covert Human Intelligence Source Act, the woman would not have been able to pursue damages.

Another police officer, followed the progress of his child and the child’s mother by reading confidential police reports which tracked the mother’s political activities and life.

Although police chiefs claim that officers are forbidden from entering into sexual relationships with activists, this claim has been undermined as many of the officers who have been unmasked have admitted to, or have been accused of, having sex with the targets of their surveillance.

The CHIS Act now officially gives police officers and other government employees to do just that – and worse.

Legal Challenges to The Covert Human Intelligence Sources Act (CHIS)

black legal wooden hammer Covert Human Intelligence Sources Act

Several human rights groups have attempted to challenge the CHIS act

 

Human rights groups have unsuccessfully tried to bring challenges to the law. For example, Just For Kids Law teamed up with another charity, JUSTICE, to endorse Amendment 43, which would have prohibited kids from committing crimes as part of an ‘investigation.’ 

In 2018, they also issued judicial review proceedings against the Home Office over its policy of allowing children to be used as spies by the police and other investigative agencies.

While they were able to get the government to consider an amendment that ensures children will only be used under exceptional circumstances and improve regulations around their use, the details on how this would be interpreted remain vague.

Furthermore, children will still be used as spies and put into potentially dangerous situations as part of the Act.

Young man in hoodie sits near waterway looking out into the distance

The Covert Human Intelligence Sources Act can put children and teens in potentially dangerous situations

 

 

Shami Chakrabarti, a member of the House of Lords (also known as a peer), told Tribune in January that the CHIS bill is “one of the most dangerous that [she’s] ever seen.”

Tory ex-minister David Davies MP proposed his own amendment to exempt murder, rape, and torture from being authorized by the bill. He cited how the Intelligence Services Act 1994, which he helped make law, was used to authorise torture, murder, and mass surveillance of innocents despite not being designed for that purpose. 

That proposed amendment was subsequently defeated. Davies cited the murder of Belfast-based human rights lawyer Pat Finucane by loyalist paramilitaries which were infiltrated by UK intelligence operatives who colluded in “identifying, targeting and murdering” Finucane. Yet another real-life example of how this new Act could give the green light to murder.

What Government Agencies Will Be Authorised Under The CHIS Act?

Secret policeman listens in using headphones behind blinds in shadowy background to use in Covert Human Intelligence Sources Act

Various unnamed agencies will be given new powers under the covert intelligence act

 

The Home Office’s “Fact Sheet” states that the intelligence agencies, the National Crime Agency, the police, HM Revenue and Customs, the armed forces, and “ten other public authorities” will be permitted to authorise criminal conduct under the bill. These ten include (see pp. 16–17) such varied bodies as the Gambling Commission, Food Standards Agency, the Environmental Agency, and the Department of Health and Social Care.

They also refused to identify some of the other agencies that will be given a carte blanche under the law.

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