The United Kingdom is seeking to pass a law that will allow investigators to break law and face no repercussions for this.
Disclaimer: This is not professional legal advice or guidance. For those who require that advice go to other sources.
This investigation focuses on Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill (HL Bill 144). Despite the title seeming to indicate that this bill is limited in scope it actually has quite extensive powers and changes for the rule of law in the United kingdom. You can find the bill here:
The official purpose of this bill is to allow agents working for the United Kingdom to commit crimes/offences in the pursuit of missions. This establishes the process of which the government can grant approval for government agents to break the law. The situations where this can be used is detailed later. This is not for certain individuals or situations as will be shown later. This applies across the United Kingdom although the bill does detail how it will apply to Northern Ireland and Scotland.
“Make provision for, and in connection with, the authorisation of criminal conduct in
the course of, or otherwise in connection with, the conduct of covert human
intelligence sources.” -HL Bill 144
Reasons To Justify:
The reasons to justify are remarkably vague. Yet we can tell a lot in the fact that they are more extensive then normal. National security is often the only reason given while in this one other reasons are given to be able to use this.
“(5)A criminal conduct authorisation is necessary on grounds falling within this subsection if it is necessary—
(a)in the interests of national security;
(b)for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime or of
preventing disorder; or
(c)in the interests of the economic well-being of the United Kingdom.”
-HL Bill 144
The individual who wishes to approve these operations must believe that it is proportionate to the threat that has been given. Due to the lack of a review process this is the individuals thoughts. No template or rating system is detailed for how it could be worked out if it is proportionated.
The only other limitation beyond protections is that no action should be undertaken illegally if it could be done legally. So only illegal acts that government wishes to use agents for can use this.
“(4)A person may not grant a criminal conduct authorisation unless the
(a)that the authorisation is necessary on grounds falling within
(b) that the authorised conduct is proportionate to what is sought
to be achieved by that conduct; and
(c)that arrangements exist that satisfy such requirements as may
be imposed by order made by the Secretary of State.”
“(6)In considering whether the requirements in subsection (4)(a) and (b) are
satisfied, the person must take into account whether what is sought to
be achieved by the authorised conduct could reasonably be achieved by
other conduct which would not constitute crime.”
-HL Bill 144
Protections Against Abuse:
The one named protection against overreach/abuse is the Human Rights Act 1998. This act is mainly about cementing the European Convention of Human Rights. Despite this all protections apart from torture cease to be applied if the government is doing legal force. A example of this is government killings that must be legal killings. This bill establishes that crimes made by agents are legal therefore allowing all crimes to become legal. The basic rights British citizens have are undermined by this law.
Another concern is that “other matters” is vague when talking about other laws. This is followed by the also vague “if relevant”. If this law does not undermine other laws then this does. It also leaves the door open for torture to be approved if the laws preventing it are not deemed relevant. This loophole perhaps would get thrown out in court yet with no review process it is hard to know how this would end up in court. Leaving murder aside this means blackmail, intimidation entrapment, arson and other offences would become possible.
(7)35Subsection (6) is without prejudice to the need to take into account
other matters so far as they are relevant (for example, the requirements
of the Human Rights Act 1998).
-HL Bill 144
(1)So far as it is possible to do so, primary legislation and subordinate legislation must be read and given effect in a way which is compatible with the Convention rights.
Freedom of expression:
(1)This section applies if a court is considering whether to grant any relief which, if granted, might affect the exercise of the Convention right to freedom of expression.
1. Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law:
-Human Rights Act 1998
Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights:
a. the lawful detention of a person after conviction by a competent court; b. the lawful arrest or detention of a person for non-compliance with the lawful order of a court or in order to secure the fulfilment of any obligation prescribed by law; c. the lawful arrest or detention of a person effected for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence or when it is reasonably considered necessary to prevent his committing an offence or fleeing after having done so; d. the detention of a minor by lawful order for the purpose of educational supervision or his lawful detention for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority; e. the lawful detention of persons for the prevention of the spreading of infectious diseases, of persons of unsound mind, alcoholics or drug addicts or vagrants; f. the lawful arrest or detention of a person to prevent his effecting an unauthorised entry into the country or of a person against whom action is being taken with a view to deportation or extradition.
Who Can Use This Law:
The list speaks of the far reaching scope of this.
“Part A1 Relevant authorities for the purposes of ss. 28, 29 and 29B
Police forces etc
A15Any police force.
B1The National Crime Agency.
C1The Serious Fraud Office.
The intelligence services
D1Any of the intelligence services.
The armed forces
E1Any of Her Majesty’s forces.
Revenue and Customs
F1Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.
G115The Department of Health and Social Care.
H1The Home Office.
I1The Ministry of Justice.
J1The Competition and Markets Authority.
K120The Environment Agency.
L1The Financial Conduct Authority.
M1The Food Standards Agency.
N1The Gambling Commission.”
Issues of Hierarchy:
Another issue with this bill is how it works with other legislation. Due to this preventing prosecutions of crimes it must sit above other laws. How far above the law it will sit is not specified. This raises questions of how any unwritten oversight would work.