Skip to main content

Covert Human Intelligence Sources: Children

Question for Home Office

UIN HL13992, tabled on 25 February 2019

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether social workers are always involved in any decision regarding the use of juveniles as covert human intelligence sources; and if so, whether those social workers conduct a risk assessment of the physical and psychological welfare of the young person in each case.

Answered on

11 March 2019

The Investigatory Powers Commissioner, Sir Adrian Fulford, has responsibility for oversight of all aspects of the use of covert human intelligence sources by public authorities with the legal power to do so, including law enforcement agencies. Regular inspections of police forces are undertaken by a team of senior inspectors from the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office to ensure they comply with the legislation. In the rare instances that these powers are applied to juveniles, particular scrutiny is given to ensure an appropriate risk assessment has taken place and processes are in place to ensure their safety is paramount at all times.

The Investigatory Powers Commissioner has agreed to collect additional information from all public authorities within the UK who have the statutory power to use covert human intelligence sources, to determine how often those powers are used in relation to juveniles. The Commissioner intends to write to the Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights shortly, with updated information on the frequency of use. The Commissioner’s next annual report will include further details of how this matter is being kept under review.

The statutory framework for the deployment of juveniles as covert human intelligence sources is designed to ensure that they are deployed with great care and only in very limited and carefully managed circumstances. This will continue to be the case in future investigations.
Where an appropriate adult is required to accompany a juvenile covert human intelligence source, that person should normally be the parent or guardian of the young person, or otherwise must be someone who is suitably qualified for the role such as a social worker or other person with appropriate professional qualifications. This person will also have a role in ensuring that the young person is not deployed in a way that is against their own will or against their interests. Those operating the powers have extensive guidance to ensure that the powers are used appropriately and that juveniles are suitably safeguarded. The security and welfare of the young person is paramount, and those responsible for authorising and managing the juvenile must carry out detailed risk assessments throughout the process, which include considering the physical and psychological welfare of the young person.

Answered by

Home Office