The Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Harriet Harman MP, has written to Ben Wallace MP, Minister for Security and Economic Crime, asking for more details on the use of juveniles as covert human intelligence sources or ‘CHIS.’
Committee seeking explanations on the CHIS scheme
The letter comes after the Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee raised concerns about the practice in the publication of its report: Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Juveniles) (Amendment) Order 2018 (SI 2018/715) in July.
The change to the law that the Lords Committee examined in this report (which increases the length of time that children can engage in the CHIS scheme from 1 to 4 months) has come into force, but the Committee is seeking explanations about the regime as a whole.
Further detail from the Home Office needed
In the interests of transparency and further information gathering, the letter seeks further detail from the Home Office on, amongst other issues:
- Details on how the regime adheres to Article 3 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) – that the best interests of the child are a primary consideration. MPs and Peers are pressing for more information on what assessments are made in considering both the risks to and the welfare of the children, and what support and advice they are given before, during and after the process.
- The number of public authorities that have used juvenile CHIS since the legislation was introduced and whether there is a consistent approach across these authorities with regards to assessment, safeguarding and consultation with the child.
- The number of juvenile CHIS used since the legislation was introduced, disaggregated by age range of child (under 16, and 16 and over), type of crime, and year.
- Further details on the rationale behind changes to the duration of assignments for children engaging as CHIS.
The Home Office have previously committed to improving data gathering on the number of children used as CHIS, and the Committee has requested further detail on how such statistics will be gathered and how this will be used.
The Committee has requested that the department respond to its questions no later than 6 September.