The House of Lords will vote tomorrow [Monday 11th January] on Liberal Democrat amendments to add crucial safeguards to the Government’s Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill.
The Bill puts into law for the first time powers for various public bodies – including the police and MI5, but also the Environment Agency, the Food Standards Agency and three Government Departments – to authorise undercover informants to commit crimes.
As it currently stands, informants would be given complete immunity for crimes authorised under the Bill, rather than it being for prosecutors to decide that prosecution is not in the public interest. A cross-party amendment co-sponsored by Liberal Democrat peer Brian Paddick [Amdt 1] would remove immunity from the Bill, preserving the status quo.
A separate Liberal Democrat amendment [Amdt 32] would ensure that victims of crimes authorised under the Bill can seek redress through the Investigatory Powers Tribunal. It is backed by the former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation Lord Anderson QC, as well as former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd.
The Lords is also expected to vote on another Liberal Democrat amendment [Amdt 6] to raise the threshold for a public body to authorise criminal conduct, from “believing” to “reasonably believing” that it is necessary and proportionate to do so.
Ahead of the debate, Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson for Home Affairs Brian Paddick said:
“It is undesirable but necessary that police rely on informants and, on occasion, those informants need to be tasked to commit crime. If all this Bill did was to provide the legal authority for that and preserve the status quo, the Liberal Democrats would have no argument with it.
“But the Government’s Bill goes much further than that – unacceptably far. It would allow police officers to give informants total legal immunity to commit any type of crime, with no prior independent authority or oversight, to combat even minor offences.
“The Government has been unable to provide any evidence that such a monumental change in the law is necessary. Parliament should reject it, and that’s exactly what the Liberal Democrats will be voting to do.”