Home Office face court challenge over use of child spies risking further abuse

The Home Office is facing a High Court challenge over the use of children as spies by police and other investigative bodies.

Children’s charity Just for Kids Law says the use of children as covert human intelligence sources (CHIS) puts them at risk of “severe physical and emotional harm”, and that a lack of safeguards breaches human rights laws.

The case, being brought against Home Secretary Sajid Javid, will be heard in London on Tuesday.

Just for Kids Law, which has raised more than £5,000 through crowdfunding towards the cost of the case, says children used as CHIS are not given access to an appropriate adult and their parents may not know they are being used as informants.

Concerns over the use of child spies were raised in the House of Lords last year and peers heard that one 17-year-old girl was recruited to spy on a man who had been exploiting her sexually.

Enver Solomon (pictured), chief executive officer of Just for Kids Law, said: “The children at the heart of this case are among the most vulnerable in our country and it is vital that they are protected and kept safe from harm.

“When the police identify a child who is being exploited, their first response should be to safeguard that child and help them to get out of that situation rather than put them at great risk of further exploitation and abuse.

“The Government must act urgently to introduce the safeguards that would protect children from severe physical and emotional harm.”

Lord Justice Fulford, the Investigatory Powers Commissioner who is carrying out a review into the use of children as CHIS, revealed in March that 17 children have been used as informants by 11 public bodies since January 2015.

In a letter to Labour MP Harriet Harman, chairwoman of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, he said one of the children was 15, while the others were 16-17.

He wrote: “Overall, the low numbers show that this tactic is only utilised in extreme circumstances and when other potential sources of information have been exhausted.”

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