Children as spies

We're challenging the government over its policy of allowing children to be used as spies by the police and other agencies.

Just for Kids Law have been working hard on gaining cross-party support for an amendment to the highly controversial Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill, which seeks to allow certain public authorities to authorise covert operatives (which may be children or trafficked persons) to commit crimes as part of their undercover roles. Working together with the human rights charity JUSTICE, Just for Kids Law has jointly endorsed Amendment 43, which would prohibit granting children a license to commit crimes. The bill and its proposed amendments are currently being considered by the House of Lords. This follows the Government amending the code to give greater protections to children following our crowdfunded court case last year. 

In September 2018, we issued judicial review proceedings against the Home Office over its policy of allowing children to be used as spies by the police and other investigative agencies. We launched a crowdfunder to cover legal costs, and thanks to the support of over 100 people donating well over £5000, Just for Kids Law, working with barristers Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC, Sam Jacobs and Mary-Rachel McCabe from Doughty Street Chambers brought a legal challenge in 2019 against the Home Office over its policy of allowing children to be used as spies.

As a result, we were very pleased to witness the Home Office make significant changes to its Code of Practice, thus settling our legal action. The Home Office’s overhaul of its Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS) Code of Practice makes clear that children can only be used in exceptional circumstances, and improves the regulations around their use, as we had sought in our legal action.

Although we celebrated this significant step forward, we still believe that children could be put in extremely dangerous situations as child spies under the revised Code of Practice, leading to them being abused and exploited. We believe that no child should be put in such a frightening and unacceptable situation and we are continuing to push for meaningful safeguards to protect children’s welfare and interests.

Through the course of our legal campaign, Just for Kids Law has uncovered shocking insight into the practice of using children and young people as spies, with the Investigatory Powers Commissioner confirming that child spies can be in violent gangs or victims of child sexual abuse who are trying to escape.

The media have also recognised the danger of this policy, widely covering our case. Coverage includes The Times, Independent, Metro, The Guardian, Telegraph, FT, Irish Independent, Sky News, CNN, Justice Gap and Rights Info as well as other outlets, while John Humphreys discussed our case on the Today Programme and it was also featured on BBC Breakfast. 

Listen to our former CEO, Enver Solomon, discussing our work on LBC's The Eddie Mair Show below.