Today's announcement that it is perfectly legal for undercover officers to have sex with potential criminals, as long as it is only to protect their cover, follows a trial that fell apart. The case centred on an undercover officer who had masqueraded as an environmentalist activist. He had grown his hair and worked hard to fit into the group.
It was claimed that having sex as he did with more than one member of the group under investigation was par for the course. To refuse it was claimed would have jeopardised the investigation and his credibility as part of the gang.
UK Home Office Minister Nick Herbert along with others is debating the matter in Parliament today, June 13, 2012. His stance is that such sexually activity is covered by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA). Herbert also claims that such incidents are carefully managed.
He said, "In very limited circumstances, authorisation under Ripa Part 2 may render unlawful conduct with the criminal if it is consentutory conduct falling within the Act that the source is authorised to undertake."But this would depend on the circumstances of each individual case and consideration should always be given to seeking legal advice. "I am not persuaded that it would be necessary to introduce specific statutory guidance on the circumstances of sexual relationships under Ripa.
"I think what matters is that there is a general structure and system of proper oversight and control rather than very specific instructions as to what may or may not be permitted. "Of course, there is another point that banning such actions would provide the group targeted the opportunity to find out whether there was an undercover officer specifically within their group.
Officer Mark Kennedy whose undercover identity was Mark "Flash" Stone, is at the centre of the debate. His liaisons after infiltrating the environmental activists group were said to have overstepped the mark. A poor level of supervision and management involvement was partly to blame, it is claimed.
Mr Kennedy knew no boundaries. He travelled abroad with protesters and worked in many countries. More often than not this was unathorised. Sounds to me like he was having fun at the taxpayers expense, but what do I know?
The outcome of the debate is likely to be that sexual liaisons may be necessary to maintain the cover of covert operatives. However where to draw the line will be the problem. Will a UK police officer detonate a bomb so as to appear one of the gang in a terrorism investigation?
Mr Kennedy's behaviour was reported by many sources in early 2011. It raised many questions and few answers. Perhaps a carte blanch for such behaviours is not appropriate, after all.