Letter to Minister about systematic use of child spies

Dear Minister

Thank you for your positive response to my Oral Question on 18th March when I raised the issue of juveniles being used as Covert Human Intelligence Sources. As I mentioned during my question, I have information provided by a whistle-blower that there appear to be formal targets being set for regions to increase the use of juvenile CHIS to help in the tackling of county lines’ drug gangs. It is helpful that the Home Office are examining this claim, as the police seem to have changed their approach directly as a result of the statutory instrument which extended the review period for juvenile CHIS to four months. Please keep me in touch with any developments on this.

My understanding is that the demographic of existing CHIS is overwhelmingly men in their 30’s or 40s, but these sources of information have become less useful as the drug gangs have adapted to the police operations by using younger recruits. I can understand the police’s desire to get the job done and to adapt their own operations in response to the drug gangs. However, I would argue that using child spies on a regular basis as part of a systematic approach is a step too far. It will inevitably lead to less care being taken and more mistakes being made. The consequences for the children involved could be violent and terrible, possibly deadly. We should be removing children from danger, not reinforcing their place within such environments.

Thank you for your answer to my written question of 13th March (HL14530) which reassured me that the Investigatory Powers Commissioner has confirmed that their inspections do address the issues of how policy is set regarding 1) payments to 2) inducements of and 3) frequency of use of each juvenile. I look forward to hearing how the monitoring information will be presented and whether this will form part of the IPCO annual report.

My own view is that the police cannot win the war on drugs, despite all their hard won success with individual operations. The best the authorities can do is to change the shape of the illegal drugs industry. Only an end to drugs prohibition can take drugs out of the hands of the criminals and we now need a conversation about the practicalities of how that can be done responsibly.

Best wishes, Jenny

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb, House of Lords, SW1A 0PW