James Sunderland backs the Government on the Lords Amendments to the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill

James Sunderland backs the Government’s position on the Lords Amendments to the Bill but calls on the Government to consider a Lords compromise which would enable victims of a crime committed by an undercover officer to be able to access compensation where appropriate.

James Sunderland (Bracknell) (Con)

This Bill is vital and goes to the heart of keeping communities safe from those seeking to do us harm. Covert human intelligence has been essential in disrupting many of the terrorist plots stopped by our agencies, and I was happy to vote the Bill through on Second Reading, the simple reason being that defence of the realm is the primary objective of any Government.

As we know, a criminal conduct authorisation may be granted where it is necessary for one of three purposes: national security, the prevention or detection of crime, or the interests of the economic wellbeing of the UK. From the relative comfort of this place, it is perhaps not for us to reason why, nor should we dare to understand the pressures that our security services are under, but it is for us to give them the tools that they need to do their job and to allow them the freedom of action that they need to keep us safe. There is a clear distinction, for clipping the wings of the Bill could be, and will be, counter- productive.

Lords amendment 3 allows anyone who has been the victim of a crime under a CCA to remain able to claim compensation under the criminal injuries compensation scheme or Northern Ireland’s CICS. That is fine, but as the Minister has outlined, the Government are listening to ways of providing additional resources to Parliament and the public on what safeguards may be possible and operationally workable. That would be achieved by an amendment in lieu that makes it clear that a person can access the compensation scheme where appropriate, so I am sympathetic to Lords amendment 3B on criminal justice compensation and urge the Government to consider it as a concession, as they now are.


This House disagreed with Lords amendment 4 on the basis that the provision of its safeguards for juveniles and vulnerable individuals would be unworkable. The other place conceded, and in its place has proposed Lords amendments 4C to 4F. Again, the Government have said that although they agree in principle, they cannot support the amendments in their current form because they would create operational issues that risk unintended consequences for the young person or vulnerable adult.

I agree that the requirement in the proposals risks the viability of the power and, crucially, the safety of the juvenile, but I support the Government’s counter-amendments that put into the Bill the requirement for juvenile criminal conduct to be authorised only in exceptional circumstances. I also agree with the decision to tighten the definition of exceptional circumstances, which is welcome. Such circumstances will exist only where there is no reasonably foreseeable harm to the juvenile as a result of the authorisation and where it is believed to be compatible with the best interests of the individual, as per Lords amendment 4, with an appropriate adult in place for meetings with under-16s and the presumption that that would be the same for 16 and 17-year-olds.

To conclude, I will support the Government today, but I urge the Minister to be mindful of the recommendations in Lords amendment 3. I also welcome the compromises in Lords amendment 4.