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Undercover Investigations

Volume 566: debated on Tuesday 9 July 2013

5. Whether the Crown Prosecution Service is always informed when an undercover police officer has been involved in an investigation that leads to a prosecution. (163822)

The CPS should always be informed. The CPS signed a memorandum of understanding in June 2012 with the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Serious Organised Crime Agency and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, which ensures investigators and prosecutors work closely together when covert operations are embarked upon where there is clear potential for a prosecution.

The former police Minister said undercover police officers could have sex with suspects if abstaining would blow their cover. Does the Attorney-General agree with the Northumbria police and crime commissioner and former Solicitor-General, Vera Baird, that the sexual activities of some of these undercover officers when they enter into a relationship with protestors may fall within the definition of rape?

I think the hon. Gentleman is asking me for a legal opinion, which I do not think I am in a position to provide across the Floor of the House. That was the thrust of his question, but what I can say is that the CPS takes very seriously the fact that if there is covert police activity it must be informed about it, because it is highly relevant to the conduct of any prosecution.

May I tempt my right hon. and learned Friend to state whether it will be appropriate for police officers in those circumstances to be prosecuted if they are deemed to have broken the law and overstepped the mark in their undercover operations?

Nobody is immune from the law, and if a police officer acting undercover breaks the criminal law of this country, they make themselves liable to prosecution.

There seems to be complete chaos in understanding what the police are, and are not, allowed to do when undercover. Given that a number of legal cases have been dropped or put at risk because of the involvement of undercover police officers, is it not high time there was a proper judge-led public inquiry so we get to the bottom of this and make sure we know what the rules are in the future and what the judgments are for the past?

I certainly acknowledge that the hon. Lady is right, and the consequence of the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station case was that a review was carried out by Sir Christopher Rose, and the CPS took the issues in that very seriously, but any question of a wider inquiry or review does not lie within the remit of my Department.