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Comments by Sanwar Ali:
If this legislation goes through, it seems there will be wholly inadequate safeguards when allowing immigration officials and others to "commit crimes" in the interests of the State. There is an enormous problem with officials making untrue statements in court proceedings. It is therefore already the case that breaking the law (without legislation that allows this!) by people who are supposed to be safeguarding our interests and protecting us is commonplace. Little is being done about this. Probably admitting there is a problem is just too embarrassing for both senior officials and the Government.
The standard response when faced with allegations of bad behaviour, is to deny and deny again. Against this background of ongoing problems with corrupt officials and the justice system, the Boris Johnson Government apparently wants to grant greater freedom to officials to commit Government sanctioned crimes in the "national interest." Further details of problems with the justice system can be found in the Secret Barrister website and twitter feed.
More power to officials and less scrutiny is bound to mean that there will be greater injustice. Those who are more likely to suffer are those from BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) communities. If an official goes beyond what is allowed when “breaking the law” under the proposed legislation, from past experience it will most likely lead to a cover up! Just look at what happened in the Windrush scandal.
In a highly controversial move, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to unveil a series of legal protections that will allow intelligence agents to commit crimes while undercover. The protections will reportedly apply to UK immigration officials, among others, raising serious concerns among human rights’ organisations.
Human rights’ advocates have urged the government not to include explicit crimes under the protections including murder, sexual violence and torture. The controversial Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS) Bill was recently introduced in Parliament and will enable operatives to ‘tackle terrorism and serious crime with an express legal basis.’
It’s understood that the types of crimes on which there are limits will not be published on the face of the Bill. The Home Office stated: “Activities will remain subject to a set of safeguards, which they are bound by, including compliance with the Human Rights Act.”
UK immigration officials can commit crimes
According to the Bill, authorities covered by the legal protections will include the Home Office itself for UK immigration and border functions, plus UK intelligence community agencies, the police, the Serious Fraud Office and the Financial Conduct Authority.
Justifying the Bill, the Home Office referred to an attempted terrorist attack targeting Downing Street and former Prime Minister Theresa May, which was orchestrated by an Isis supporter in May 2018, whereby public authorities were authorised under CHIS to participate in criminal activity.
In 2019, Naa’imur Zakariyah Rahman was jailed for a minimum of 30 years for planning the attack after he unknowingly divulged details of the plot to intelligence officers.
Demands of explicit prohibition of certain crimes
However, several human rights’ organisations have described the legislation as ‘alarming.’ Human rights organisation, Reprieve, urged Westminster to include an explicit prohibition on the authorisation of crimes such as murder, sexual violence and torture.
Maya Foa, director of Reprieve, said: “Our intelligence agencies do a vital job in keeping the country safe, but there must be common sense limits to their agents’ activities, and we hope MPs will ensure these limits are written into the legislation.”
Privacy International director and legal office, Ilia Siatitsa, echoed Foa’s concerns, saying: “The public has a right to know what type of criminal acts MI5’s policy authorises in the UK. That’s why we’re fighting them in court. The new Bill does not alleviate these concerns.”
“Our democracy and our most fundamental rights are at risk if the government permits MI5 to commit crimes with impunity,” Ms Siatitsa added.
However, the Home Office argues that the legislation enables public authorities to earn the trust of people under investigation, giving them a ‘sound legal footing’ following a court battle over the issue.
Claims new legislation in the interest of National Security
UK security minister and former immigration minister, James Brokenshire, said: “We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the men and women who put themselves in often dangerous situations in order to protect our national security and keep the public safe.”
“In the course of this vital work, it may be necessary for agents to participate in criminal activity in order to gain the trust of those under investigation. This is a critical capability and is subject to robust, independent oversight. It’s important that those protecting the public can continue this work, knowing that they are on a sound legal footing,” Brokenshire added.
Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, said: “National security is the top priority for Labour and that means ensuring our security services are able to keep us safe, whilst operating within robust safeguards. We will look closely at these proposals in that spirit.”
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