Covert human intelligence sources

Covert human intelligence sources inspections last three to five days and examine the agency’s internal records for any use of these powers and related activity. Oversight may involve looking at how the source was recruited and the way in which their tasks and wellbeing are managed. This might include:

  • looking at notes and internal assessments of the necessity and proportionality of using an individual as a source; or
  • interviewing staff about their dealings with the public to ensure that – inadvertently or otherwise – the public are not acting in a way that would need to be authorised.

We consider questions such as:

  • how quickly an individual is authorised to be a covert human intelligence source once they have been approached;
  • whether every contact with the source has been fully documented;
  • whether the authorisation for the use of this source has been properly considered and explained by the authorising officer;
  • the appropriate regime for handling and managing this source properly;
  • whether risk assessments are maintained and updated; and
  • whether there is suitable security around the management of the intelligence the source provides and of the individual’s identity.

We also conduct inspections:

  • when law enforcement uses undercover officers, specifically considering how they are managed and the way in which their safety and welfare is overseen;
  • when a covert human intelligence source participates in criminality with the approval of an authorising officer; and
  • in advance of any renewal for the use of an undercover police operative or “relevant source”.

We specifically review every case where a juvenile human intelligence source is involved, given their potential vulnerability.

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