The House of Lords has passed a Liberal Democrat amendment to raise the threshold for government agencies to authorise undercover agents to commit crimes.
The Liberal Democrats’ amendment [Amdt 6] to the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill, which raises the test for authorising criminal conduct from “believing” to “reasonably believing” that it is necessary and proportionate to do so, was passed by 282 votes to 259.
Liberal Democrat peers also voted in favour of cross-party amendments [Amdts 1 and 2] to remove provisions from the Bill that would give informants complete immunity for crimes authorised under it, and preserve the status quo where prosecutors decide that prosecution is not in the public interest. However, those amendments were defeated by the Government.
Following the votes, Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson for Home Affairs Brian Paddick said: “It is undesirable but necessary that police rely on informants and, on occasion, those informants need to be tasked to commit crime. If all this Bill did was to provide the legal authority for that and preserve the status quo, the Liberal Democrats would have no argument with it.
“But the Government’s Bill goes much further than that – unacceptably too far. It would allow police officers to give informants total legal immunity to commit any type of crime, with no prior independent authority or oversight, to combat even minor offences.
“I’m glad the Liberal Democrats have secured a crucial change to strengthen safeguards in the Bill, but it is disappointing that other parties did not join us to reject this worrying and monumental change to the law, for which the Government has been unable to provide any evidence.