Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill – Summary

The CHIS Bill, which was introduced to the House of Commons on 24th September 2020, seeks to amend the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 to allow undercover agents to commit what would currently amount to criminal offences in the course of their duties. This Bill would therefore put such conduct on statutory footing, which had arguably been upheld previously by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal in December 2019. 

The relevant authorities encompassed by this are listed in A1 of the CHIS Bill and include: police forces, the intelligence services, the armed forces, HM Revenue and Customs, as well as certain government departments. Specifically, the Bill, if it comes into force, would limit both statutory and criminal liability for those authorities that engaged in authorised criminal conduct. Examples of behaviour that the Bill seeks to legalise would be agents or informants being members of criminal organisations.  

The Bill is worded to have due regard to the Human Rights Act and Sections 1(4) and (5) describe the criteria for authorisation and those where authorisation may not be granted. Such authorisation, for example, may not be granted unless the person believes that is necessary on grounds for the interests of national security, preventing crime, or it is in the interests of the economic wellbeing of the UK. There is also the need for proportionality and that arrangements exist that “satisfy such requirements as may be imposed by order made by the Secretary of State”.  

There are, however, no limitations on what types of criminal offences may be authorised by the relevant agency or ‘person’. Authorisations may also be given internally, in contrast to recent legislation governing the use of investigatory powers. Authorities capable of giving such authorisation are listed in Section 2 of the Bill, with oversight granted to the Investigatory Powers Commissioner under Section 4.  

You can track bill on Hansard here: