“This “SpyCops” Bill will give power & impunity to people who are spying on behalf of the British state. It will give these undercover agents permission to commit crimes such as murder, torture & sexual offences, in Britain & overseas.”
On Thursday 15th October, the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill will complete its short passage through the House of Commons. There has been little scrutiny of the bill and that may well be intentional. While the country is fighting the covid pandemic, few people are aware that the conservative Government is rushing this authoritarian Bill through Parliament.
This “SpyCops” Bill will give power and impunity to people who are spying on behalf of the British state. It will give these undercover agents permission to commit crimes such as murder, torture and sexual offences, in Britain and overseas. The authority to protect people who commit these crimes on behalf of the state will be given to a wide variety of organisations spanning the police and MI5, to the Department of Health and the Food Standards Agency.
Police spies have been responsible for the abuse of many campaigners throughout the UK for decades. Undercover police have infiltrated organisations ranging from trade unions to environmental and anti racist campaigns including the bereaved family of the murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence. Undercover agents have also been responsible for the state collaboration in the murder of the criminal defence lawyer Pat Finucane in Northern Ireland and forming intimate and close sexual relationships with unsuspecting female activists. Spies have also been allowed to incite and entrap activists into taking part in activities the spies are initiating.
So why do the Tories believe this Bill to be necessary and why were the parliamentary Labour Party told to abstain on the second reading of the Bill rather than vote against it?
The Tories believe that this Bill is necessary for national security and to provide a legal framework for intelligence sources who help to uncover crimes. The current Labour Party leadership believe that any responsible government should legislate to address this, provide safeguards and that the current law is unacceptable. They believe therefore that opposing this Bill would weaken national security and lead to weaker legal safeguards.
Legislation may well be needed, but needed to curb and control the activities of covert agents. This bill grants them immunity from prosecution and as such does not give comfort to those who have been the victims of the crimes of covert action. Neither should the Labour Party be supporting a bill on the grounds of rhetoric about national security being threatened because covert agents were unable to commit murder or rape on behalf of the people.
As social justice and human rights activists the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign believe that this dangerous piece of legislation would give the police and other intelligence agents who commit crimes while undercover, protection against criminal prosecution. It will protect police officers, MI5 agents and civilian informants from future blame and could ultimately give informants and agents a “licence to kill”. This is a further serious threat to the civil liberties of people in Britain, extending powers to put citizens under surveillance, particularly those who are involved in campaigns against actions by the British state.