Great Britain

MI5 has a legal licence to kill and can authorise its informants to to commit murder, kidnap and torture, tribunal rules

SPY KILL OK

MI5 moles’ licence to kill is legal, a tribunal ruled yesterday.

Human rights groups had disputed the agency’s policy of letting informants murder, kidnap and torture.

They claimed it gave moles and agents protection from prosecution.

But the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT)stressed there was no such immunity although it ruled by 3-2 that the power was lawful.

IPT president Lord Justice Singh said: “The events of Manchester and London in 2017 vividly underline the need for such intelligence gathering to protect the public.”

In the majority ruling, Lord Justice Singh said MI5 has "an implied power" under the Security Service Act 1989 "to engage in the activities which are the subject of the policy under challenge".

"It is important to appreciate that this does not mean that it has any power to confer immunity from liability under either the criminal law or the civil law ... on either its own officers or on agents handled by them."

"It does not purport to confer any such immunity and has no power to do so."

Announcing the decision, Lord Justice Singh said: "This case raises one of the most profound issues which can face a democratic society governed by the rule of law."

Earlier, Sir James Eadie QC, for the government, said it would be impossible for MI5 to operate without its moles “going about their business” in terror groups.

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