“RIPA still authorises sexual relationships by state agents”

House of Lords 8th July 2015  – Jenny’s response to government report on investigatory powers. 

A question of trust: report of the investigatory powers review‘ was commissioned by David Cameron in 2014 in the wake of revelations by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden of widespread government surveillance.

In her response to the report in the House of Lords, Jenny highlighted the need for the behaviour and authorisation of undercover police officers to be addressed:

The use of undercover state agents, or covert human intelligence sources… 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.

Jenny has become a key figure in the campaign to stop undercover police officers having sexual relationships with campaigners.