Charity warns children being used as spies by the State continue to be put in danger, despite Home Office guidance overhaul

The charity Just for Kids Law has warned that children who are used as spies in criminal investigations remain at great risk despite the Home Office changing its guidance so children are only used in ‘exceptional circumstances’.

Just for Kids Law, working with barristers Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC, Sam Jacobs and Mary-Rachel McCabe from Doughty Street Chambers brought a legal challenge last year against the Home Office over its policy of allowing children to be used as spies and was due to continue its legal battle in the Court of Appeal this week.

Just for Kids Law welcomes the Home Office’s overhaul of its Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS) Code of Practice which makes clear that children can only be used in exceptional circumstances, and improves the regulations around their use, as the charity had sought in their legal action. The Home Office’s significant changes to the Code of Practice means that the legal action has now been settled.

However, the charity is today warning that children could still be put in extremely dangerous situations as child spies under the revised Code of Practice, leading to them being abused and exploited.

Through the course of its legal campaign, Just for Kids Law has uncovered shocking insight into the practice of using children and young people as spies, with the Investigatory Powers Commissioner confirming that child spies can be in violent gangs or victims of child sexual abuse who are trying to escape.

The charity believes that no child should be put in such a frightening and unacceptable situation and has been very concerned about the distinct lack of meaningful safeguards to protect children’s welfare and interests.

Enver Solomon, Chief Executive Officer at Just for Kids Law, said:

“We certainly welcome the new safeguards introduced in the revised code of practice which will help prevent children from being placed in extremely dangerous situations as child spies. However, we question whether it is ever in a child’s best interest to be used in these circumstances.

“We know children are put at great risk which can leave them traumatised and scarred for life. We want the Home Office to go further and amend the regulations to ensure that no child is ever placed in harms’ way by the police.”

Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC, Sam Jacobs and Mary-Rachel McCabe were instructed in this challenge by Jennifer Twite, Head of Strategic Litigation at Just for Kids Law.

Just for Kids Law’s press release with further details is available here.