MI5 spies will be given ‘licence to kill’ like James Bond in new proposed laws

Spies could be given an effective licence to kill like James Bond under new laws expected to be unveiled this week, it has been reported.

The Daily Telegraph claims legislation will allow organisations security services such as MI5 to sanction agents to carry out "necessary and proportionate" offences.

But it may remain unclear if there will be limits to what crimes can be authorised.

It follows a long battle over the legality of security service guidelines used to permit covert sources to break the law.

Last year, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which hears complaints about surveillance by public bodies, ruled the policy was lawful as it held an "implied power" under the Security Service Act, but members were split three to two on the decision.

Famous series of Brit films, James Bond, features the main character, a UK spy, who has a "licence to kill" granted to him by the UK Government and the 1989 movie featuring Timothy Dalton is named after it.

A coalition of human rights groups, concerned the policy may be used to authorise such offences as killing on British soil, appealed against what is called the "knife-edge" ruling – the term for when a deciding vote is necessary.

Despite winning the court battle last year, the Government now wants to ensure the implied power is turned into the legal protection the security service says it needs for undercover missions.

It is expected the law will create a legal framework to authorise crime by agents acting on behalf of public organisations conducting covert investigations, including MI5.

According to sources, the law will not limit the types of crimes an agent can commit, but it is unclear how far the protection extends until it is put before parliament.

MI5 has previously refused to say which crimes could be committed under its internal guidelines as it could mean undercover operations were "seriously frustrated".

Ministers had been hoping to introduce the legislation this week. It was previously delayed due to changes in procedures caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

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