Everyone knows about the 007 identifier belonging to Ian Fleming’s James Bond. As an officer
of Military Intelligence Section 6 (MI6) he is legally immune from all criminal and civil
consequences of an act if, for example, he were to commit something that we would recognise
as murder. But what is the exact law on such matters – or is it entirely a fiction?
Yes, it is law, and it is enshrined in the Intelligence Services Act 1994. And Parliament is about
to consider the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill, which is intended
to give more structure to a rather loose set of standards that apply at present.
Under the ‘94 Act all staff employed by MI6 are deemed to be “officers” and as such may be
given immunity from prosecution. But to perform their duties they often have to rely on the
services of undercover “agents”. These are not employees but are usually “informers” and are
indispensable cogs in the intelligence machine. But they do not have any immunity protection
at present. Because these persons are likely to play a crucial part in combatting terrorism, child
trafficking and other matters, they obviously need to be afforded some protection but this is not
going to happen. Parliament is stepping back from giving them full immunity in the same manner
as officers. It is hoped they will have several defences available if a prosecution or civil claims
are ever brought.
As at present, the new law will enable certain officers to grant “Warrants” ie authorisations to
persons who must be specifically identified, to carry out certain specific acts. The acts must be
in the interests of the economic well-being of the UK and must be proportionate. The
authorisation will be valid for all legal purposes, and will cover a victim’s theoretical claims for
damages and compensation for injury.
But what sort of illegal acts does it really cover? What about, for example, rape? In the context
of an informer “rape” would mean having intercourse with someone who would not have
consented if he/she knew the role of the other party as an intelligence officer. And leaving aside
James Bond’s fictional activities, does the bill really intend to authorise murder? The
Government’s report side-steps this question by saying there are no activities that will never be
But perhaps the really interesting part of the Bill is the list of authorities who will be given power
to issue these “007″ licences: At present these include the Security and Intelligence Service, the
Police, the Armed Forces, the Home Office and Ministry of Defence, but there will be added
Dept of Health and Social Services, the Environment Agency, the Food Standards Agency and
the Gambling Commission. These are really interesting developments!!!
For further advice about Licences to Kill please do not contact John Pulham at:-
Messrs Pulham & Co
Telephone (01728) 602084 or e-mail email@example.com