The use of young children to infiltrate gangs has been lambasted by a House of Lords Committee.
Specific concern was voiced for the welfare of kids employed in this fashion.
Child spies are being utilized more and more by security services in operations and police against gangs, drug dealers, and terrorists, the Home Office says.
Lord Trefgarne, Chairman of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, has written to Ben Wallace MP, Minister of State for Security and Economic Crime at the Home Office, outlining his objections.
“We are concerned that enabling a young person to participate in covert activity for an extended period of time may expose them to increased risks to their mental and physical welfare,” the letter states.
“I cannot hide from you the Committee’s considerable anxiety concerning the principle of employing young people–sometimes very young people–in this way,” he says.
The committee conceded that sources under 16 must have a suitable adult “qualified to represent the interests of the source” present at any meetings with their supervisor, but queried “How are the interests of 16-18-year-olds, to be protected?”.
“CHIS (Covert Human Intelligence Sources) have a vital role to play in investigations by public authorities and can provide crucial evidence that cannot be obtained by any other means,” said Mr. Wallace in response to the letter.
“Much as investigators would wish to avoid the use of young people in such a role, it is possible that a carefully managed deployment of a young person could contribute to detecting crime and preventing offending.”
“It can be difficult to gather evidence on gangs without penetrating their membership through the use of juvenile CHIS,” the Minister expressed. “As well as provide intelligence dividend in relation to a specific gang, juvenile CHIS can give investigators a broader insight into, for example, how young people in gangs are communicating with each other.”