‘Spy Cops’ Bill - Report Stage in the House of Lords


Letter: Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct aka ‘Spy Cops’) Bill – Report Stage in the House of Lords

Dear Lords,

This is an extremely dangerous Bill which has attracted strong and broad opposition among organisations and individuals. You may have seen our original statement against the Bill in November which was signed by over 50 organisations (statement here).

The Bill should be rejected as paving the way to a police state which sanctions violence and other criminality. Women and children, people of colour, disabled people, those who do not have the protection of a British passport, and anyone exercising their legitimate right to protest against injustice of any kind, including by withdrawing their labour, are likely to be the first targets.

The amendments tabled by opposition parties are inadequate as they would only limit the powers of this Bill. However, we urge you to back them, in particular those that:

  • remove immunity from criminal prosecution (amendment 1);
  • prevent the use of the “national economic interest” as a pretext to authorise crimes (amendment 9). The inclusion of economic interest is one of the most worrying parts of the Bill. Who will determine what that is? What are the implications for public safety and government accountability of the Home Office, DWP, Food Standards Agency and corporations the government wishes to protect being allowed such sweeping powers?
  • prohibit a spy from committing a serious violent crime such as rape, torture or murder (amendment 15);
  • allow financial compensation for victims of a crime resulting from criminal conduct authorisation (amendment 22);
  • limit the range of authorities given such powers (amendments 27 & 28);
  • ensure that powers are authorised by a judge (amendment 5 & 42);
  • protect children and other vulnerable people from being used as spies (amendments 12, 13 & 14).

These amendments are our key priority:

Amendment 1: CHIS should never be immune from civil or criminal liability.

Amendment 9: criminal conduct authorisation could be granted on economic grounds only if it is also relevant to the interests of national security.

Amendment 11: prohibit authorisation of criminal conduct where the covert human intelligence source acts as an agent provocateur.

Amendment 12: prohibit the granting of criminal conduct authorisations to children.

Amendment 15: prohibit authorisation of serious criminal offences.

Amendment 22: ensure that victims of violent crime are not rendered ineligible for criminal injuries compensation.

There is a climate emergency, an international pandemic, poverty is on the rise as never before, and although rape and domestic violence have soared since lockdown, they have been practically decriminalised. We are alarmed that undercover agents could be used to manipulate, interfere with and criminalise legitimate protest on a wide range of high-profile issues, including child poverty, violence against women and children, structural racism, workers’ rights, the NHS, the climate emergency and the destruction of the natural world, pollution, food safety, animal welfare, organic farming, human rights in the UK and abroad. (See attempts to criminalise Extinction Rebellion.)

In listing these issues, we are bearing in mind that until the storming of the Capitol in Washington DC by what president-elect Joe Biden called “domestic terrorists”, people in and around the UK government had close relations with President Trump and were planning trade deals with him. These are some of the same people who are promoting criminal impunity with this Bill.

We urge you to oppose the Bill and back amendments that curtail its powers. We would welcome being in touch with you.

Yours against rape,
Lisa Longstaff