New laws regarding the use of Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS) have been introduced. The legislation now protects individuals who “participate in conduct which would otherwise constitute a criminal offence”, if they are doing so to aid a criminal investigation.

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The use of Covert Human Intelligence Sources

Anyone who watches police dramas – such as BBC’s Line of Duty – may have heard the acronym ‘CHIS’. This stands for Covert Human Intelligence Sources. These are people who go undercover in an attempt to progress a police investigation. This individual may be a police officer, or he/she may be a member of the public who is acting as an informant.

Often, Covert Human Intelligence Sources have to get very close to criminal suspects, and may even have to participate in the crime itself. As the government recently explained:

“Participation in criminal conduct is an essential and inescapable feature of CHIS use, otherwise they will not be credible or gain the trust of those under investigation. This enables them to work their way into the heart of groups that would cause us harm, finding information and intelligence which other investigative measures may never detect.”

Because of this, the government decided to update the laws regarding CHIS use, which were previously covered by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. Now, the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Act 2021 provides “an express power to authorise CHIS to participate in conduct which would otherwise constitute a criminal offence.”

Safeguarding measures

The government explained that CHIS use will be restricted and must comply to certain laws. It said: “Any authorisation for criminal conduct must be necessary and proportionate and compatible with obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Bill requires the Investigatory Powers Commissioner to keep under review public authorities’ use of the power and to include information on criminal conduct authorisations in his annual report.

The number of public authorities able to authorise this conduct has been restricted from those can authorise the use and conduct of CHIS generally. Only the intelligence agencies, NCA, police, HMRC, HM Forces and ten other public authorities will be able to authorise criminal conduct.”

Was a CHIS used in your case?

As a leading criminal defence law firm, we are well-versed in the use of Covert Human Intelligence Sources. Many of our clients have been accused of serious and complex crimes, and it is not unusual for the police to have used a CHIS in these cases.

If a Covert Human Intelligence Source is a factor in your case, then we know what to do. We will ensure that the law has been followed and the proper protections put in place. If the regulations have been a breached, we will draw this to the court’s attention, requesting that the evidence is struck out.

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Contact us now for a free initial enquiry. Call us on 0333 009 6275. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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