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The Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill 2019-2021 was introduced in the House of Commons on 24 September 2020. It completed Third reading in the House of Lords on 21 January 2021.

During Ping Pong a number of Lords amendments were rejected by the Commons on 27 January, and alternative Government amendments were proposed by the Lords on 9 February. The House of Commons is scheduled to consider these amendments in lieu on 24 February. They concern access to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme for victims of conduct governed by the Bill, and safeguards for children and vulnerable adults.

The main purpose of the Bill is to introduce a power in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) to authorise conduct by officials and agents of the security and intelligence services, law enforcement, and certain other public authorities (covert human intelligence sources, or ‘CHIS’), which would otherwise constitute criminality. These authorisations would be known as criminal conduct authorisations (CCAs). The existing non-statutory policy for authorising such conduct is the subject of an ongoing legal challenge. The Bill would place the activity on a statutory footing and would limit civil and criminal liability for those subject to authorisations.

The House of Lords made several amendments to the Bill. These included:

  • Limiting the conduct that can be authorised, so that it would not be possible to authorise conduct amounting to serious offences such as murder, rape, torture, and perverting the course of justice;
  • Introducing additional safeguards for authorisations relating to children or vulnerable adults;
  • Introducing a new requirement to notify a judicial commissioner from the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office within seven days of an authorisation being granted or cancelled;
  • Ensuring that victims of authorised conduct are not precluded from claiming Criminal Injuries Compensation; and
  • Limiting the Bill’s application in Scotland

This paper should be read in conjunction with Library Briefing Paper CBP9012 Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill 2019-2021, published prior to the Bill’s Second Reading in the House of Commons, which explains the background to the Bill and the effect of its provisions in detail.

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