Children as covert human intelligence sources: spies first, children second

Raymond Arthur*, Tracy Kirk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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The Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Act 2021 empowers the police, and other authorities, throughout the United Kingdom to use children as Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS) and to authorise these children to engage in criminality, with no criminal liability, in return for information. In this article, we analyse the risk of severe physical and emotional harm that children face when acting as a CHIS and engaging in criminal behaviour to preserve their cover. This practice of using a child as a CHIS and encouraging children to engage in criminal conduct also runs counter to the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales’ ‘Child First’ vision of a youth justice system that respects children rights and operates in children’s best interests. Throughout the article we argue that, despite the existing safeguards, the emphasis should be on helping children to escape a criminal lifestyle, rather than entrenching them further in a life of criminality by encouraging them to act as a CHIS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)372-387
Number of pages16
JournalYouth Justice
Issue number3
Early online date14 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2023


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