By Muhammad Mussa
British police and intelligence agencies are using child spies against terrorists and gangs, according to a new House of Lords committee report.
The report, revealed by parliament’s upper chamber on Thursday, detailed the covert practice by security agencies while cautioning the government over its plans to grant more powers to law enforcement to use children.
“We are concerned that enabling a young person to participate in covert activity associated with serious crime for an extended period of time may increase the risks to their mental and physical welfare,” said Lord Trefgarne, the committee’s chair.
“The more we looked into the various documents cited, the more we wondered how effective they would be at ensuring adequate assessments were made to ensure that the CHIS [covert human intelligence source] is properly supported both during and after the event,” he added.
The report also told how the committee was in contact with the Home Office, specifically Minister Ben Wallace, to seek further details on how children were used in these covert operations.
“The minister’s reply gives some examples of how such a juvenile CHIS might be used, citing terrorism, gang violence and drug offences as well as child sexual exploitation,” the report said.
Wallace, however was unable to give any information on the number of children employed in the program, “a fact we find surprising given the ongoing review he mentions,” the report said.
The Order of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 is a law that allows the Home Office to employ juveniles, also known as covert human intelligence sources, in “covert surveillance” operations.
Amendments to this law, known as the Draft Investigatory Powers Order 2018, “proposes to extend the period for which a person under 18 years of age can be used as a CHIS from one month to four months”.