Commons passes agent crime bill without limits

October 15, 2020

Edited image of Parliament from Shutterstock

The Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill has passed its third reading in the House of Commons.

Reprieve Director Maya Foa commented: “Without limits on the crimes agents can commit this Bill is wide open to abuse – and history suggests this will result in terrible harm. We are hopeful the House of Lords will amend this legislation to make clear MI5 cannot say what is and isn’t lawful, nor authorise torture, murder, or sexual violence.”

The Bill grants every police force in Britain, plus MI5 and a broad range of other governmental bodies the power to authorise undercover agents to commit crimes.

During the debate, MPs from across the political spectrum called for strict limits in the bill to prevent authorisation of the most serious crimes, including murder, torture and sexual violence.

“America and Canada learnt the hard way, the need to include specific limits in the crimes that agents can commit,” said Conservative MP David Davis. “Both countries have set clear limits.”

Labour spokesman Conor McGinn MP said: “Nothing justifies murder, torture, sexual violence… It is one of the biggest concerns about the bill that there is nothing in it to limit or specify the kinds of offences covered.”

“I’m pretty certain that sooner or later… we will be back here looking at a future bill because this one is not fit for the purpose for which the Government claims it,” said Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael.

The Bill now moves to the House of Lords for consideration and amendment.