“RIPA still authorises sexual relationships by state agents”

On 11 June 2015, the Government published ‘A question of trust: report of the investigatory powers review‘ by David Anderson Q.C., the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation.

Jenny Jones, Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb, gave an excellent response to the report during a debate in the House of Lords on 8 July.

In discussing the continued legality of undercover police officers forming intimate relationships, she stated:

This report also touches on the use of undercover state agents, or covert human intelligence sources. I accept that this was not the focus of David Anderson’s report but it is an area where I have huge concerns. The House is probably aware of the cases of several women who were deceived into long-term intimate sexual relationships with undercover police officers. Their testimony to the Home Affairs Select Committee laid bare the life-changing consequences these women suffered. I am concerned that, as it stands, RIPA still authorises sexual relationships by state agents. I find this quite alarming. If Parliament thinks that state agents should have this power, which I do not, or that there should be limitations to it, that must be part of the debate we are having. If RIPA is to be replaced then its replacement must clarify the law in this area.

I also draw the House’s attention to a particular aspect of RIPA which I find inconsistent and in need of reform. Different forms of intrusive surveillance are authorised at different levels. For example, interception of communication requires authorisation from the Secretary of State. On the other hand, the authorisation of direct surveillance, including the activities of an undercover police officer, requires only the authorisation of another police officer. It is worth pointing out at this stage that most of the investigatory powers used to obtain communications data are so used by the police and not the security services. I believe that the highly intrusive nature of an intimate relationship with a state agent, presenting as someone else, is capable of being far more intrusive than the interception of communications. I should therefore like to see judicial authorisation for undercover state agents.

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