Theresa May’s use of ‘child spies’ has put her at the heart of a political storm

Theresa May making a speech
Support us and go ad-free

A political storm is brewing over Theresa May’s government using ‘child spies’ to catch serious criminals. A human rights group, a government committee, and a former Conservative minister are all raising alarm bells over the scandalous practice.

Child spies

The Home Office is trying to extend the amount of time it can use kids as infiltrators. A government committee has raised [pdf p3] “grave concerns” over the government exposing minors to “serious, violent crimes” at all, let alone for longer periods of time.

For most, news that the government can use children as spies to catch criminals will come as a surprise. But, as the Guardian reports, it can. Currently, it can use them on surveillance operations for up to one month, after which it has to ‘re-register’ the child for use. The Home Office is trying to extend the one-month limit to four months.

The House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee has challenged the government on the plan. It published its concerns over the proposal on 12 July. The committee, chaired by former Conservative minister Lord Trefgarne, stated:

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

The committee also noted [pdf p10] that the government doesn’t appear to have consulted mental and physical health professionals on its plan. And it says [pdf p4] the government hasn’t “explained in any detail” its supposed “range of safeguards” to monitor these children’s welfare.

Seriously?

It’s not surprising the committee is concerned. As its report explains, the government is exposing these kids to criminal situations of the highest order. The committee asked Home Office minister Ben Wallace about the situations it uses them for. It wrote [pdf p3]:

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

The Minister’s reply gives some examples of how such a juvenile CHIS [covert human intelligence source] might be used, citing terrorism, gang violence and drug offences as well as child sexual exploitation.

Legal and policy officer at Rights Watch (UK) Rosalind Comyn commented:

Enlisting children as foot soldiers in the darkest corners of policing, and intentionally exposing them to terrorism, crime or sexual abuse rings – potentially without parental consent – runs directly counter to the government’s human rights obligations, which demand the interests of children be placed at the heart of decisions which affect them.

Wallace, however, argued [pdf p11] that juveniles are “increasingly involved, both as perpetrators and victims” in such crimes and can therefore have “unique access to information”. And the Home Office claims:

Juvenile covert human intelligence sources are used very rarely and only ever when it is necessary and proportionate and when there is no other less intrusive way to get the information needed to convict criminals or terrorist suspects.

The Home Office, however, hasn’t revealed [pdf p3] exactly how many children it’s used as spies.

No limits

As critics have pointed out, the UK currently has the “most extreme surveillance law ever passed in a democracy”. Now we discover its surveillance practices include exposing kids to serious, violent crimes rather than “rescuing them” from such situations.

This inept government has an extraordinary skill in one area. It can always go lower when you think it’s reached the depths of its depravity.

Get Involved!

Join The Canary if you appreciate the work we do.

Featured image via the Daily Mail – YouTube

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed