20 Jul British intelligence and police services are using child spies in covert operations
A committee of the House of Lords has revealed British intelligence services and the police are using children as covert spies in efforts to combat terrorism, gangs and drug dealers.
According to The Guardian, some spies are younger than 16, while Home Office correspondence with the committee infer that some youths aren’t just being used to supply the authorities with information, but are assigned to collect information on behalf of agencies, known as Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS).
Expressing his concerns about the use of child spies, chairman of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, Lord Trefgarne, wrote to Ben Wallace, Minister of State for Security and Economic Crime at the Home Office, explaining his concerns: “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.”
In response, Wallace defended the use of child spies, suggesting that whilst investigators would like to avoid using covert sources so young, that “carefully managed deployment of a young person could contribute to detecting crime and preventing offending.”
He continued with: “It can be difficult to gather evidence on gangs without penetrating their membership through the use of juvenile CHIS. As well as provide intelligence dividend in relation to a specific gang, juvenile CHIS can give investigators a broader insight into, for example, how young people in gangs are communicating with each other.”
Former police officer Neil Woods and author of Good Cop, Bad War, an autobiography about a former covert drug squad police officer, said the participation of children in covert operations was previously viewed as a rare occurrence, but has now changed, seemingly in an attempt to infiltrate county lines:
“It sounds like infiltration to me, direction and infiltration. It’s basically a kid that has been caught first time, and instead of rescuing them they are sending them back in.”
The Security Minister said adjustments would be made to The Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Juveniles) Order to provide better protection for young people used as covert human intelligence sources.