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Bishop backs protections for children in covert intelligence bill

by Will Maule

The Church of England's Lead Bishop for Children and Families has backed a move in the House of Lords to introduce provisions for children to be protected from being used in undercover operations by police and other authorities. Bishop Paul Butler has put his support behind cross-party amendments to the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill, which is currently being considered by the House of Lords.

The bill seeks to provide express power to authorise Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS) to participate in conduct which would otherwise constitute a criminal offence. While this is not a new power, the government hopes that the bill will outline "clear legal basis for a longstanding tactic which is vital for national security and the prevention and detection of crime".

However, there are concerns about the welfare of children if they used as CHIS in these investigations. As such, Bishop Butler is joining Baroness Massey, Lord Dubs and Lord Cormack in backing an amendment "which would prohibit the authorisation of criminal conduct by children without specific prior judicial approval".

In addition, he will also support an amendment from Baroness Kidron, Baroness Hamwee, Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Young of Cookham which seeks to provide further legal protections for under 18s.

Bishop Butler said: “Children of all ages deserve to be protected. Ideally no one under 18 should ever be used for covert intelligence but if they must be then it must be extremely rare and with thorough legal protections in place.”

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