High Court gives green light to judicial review challenge over guidance on use of children as spies

The High Court has granted charity Just for Kids Law permission to proceed with its judicial review challenge over the use of children as spies by the police and other investigative agencies.

The Home Office had claimed that the case should be dropped for procedural reasons. The first full hearing in the case is scheduled for 11 June.

Just for Kids Law argues that the Government’s position is incompatible with international law, in particular the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The charity said it was concerned that there were no clear safeguards for children “despite the clear risks to mental and physical health posed by their involvement in investigations”.

It added: “This is particularly acute for 16 and 17 year olds, who don’t even have access to an Appropriate Adult when speaking to intelligence agencies – despite being at an age where they would have such support if charged with a criminal offence.”

Just for Kids Law said it wanted the Home Office guidance to make clear that the child’s welfare is considered when they are recruited; that proper risk assessments are carried out, and that children are only used in the most exceptional of circumstances with appropriate safeguards.

It is using the Crowd Justice platform to fund the case and is now looking to reach a stretch target of £15,000.

Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC and Sam Jacobs, both of Doughty Street Chambers, are acting for the charity on the case.

Doughty Street said: “The Government has recently indicated that it considers there to be 'increasing scope' for child Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHISes) to be used in the most grave and dangerous of contexts, including in assisting the investigation and prosecution of serious offences such as terrorism offences, gang violence, county lines drugs offences and child sexual exploitation.

“This raises serious concerns regarding the welfare, well-being and safety of children recruited and deployed as child CHISes.”

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