Gary Haggarty, a member of the pro-British paramilitary organisation the Ulster Volunteer Force in Northern Ireland, worked as a paid agent of Special Branch cops.
In 2017 he pleaded guilty to 202 crimes, and asked that 301 others be taken into consideration. These included five murders.
Under a proposed new law from the Tories, as a paid informant he could have been given immunity in advance for his crimes.
MI5 has long had a policy of allowing its officers and informants to participate in criminal activity. But the Tories want to sort out the legal rules to fend off justice campaigners.
The problem is that the government is right to insist that it will “underpin the longstanding work of intelligence and law enforcement agencies”.
There is the 1989 murder of Pat Finucane, a Belfast lawyer who was shot 14 times by Loyalists involved in British state collusion.
British agents provided the information and the weapons for this and numerous other killings.
There is Naa’imur Zakariyah Rahman, jailed for life in 2018 for plotting to kill then prime minister Theresa May. Spooks and cops provided Rahman with what he thought was a jacket and rucksack packed with explosives.
There are the spy cops who bugged, burgled and bribed.
They spied on murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence’s family. And they formed sexual relationships with activists from various campaigns to get information. They encouraged crime to entrap activists.
There are many other crimes committed by cops and spooks in Britain and abroad. The new legislation puts them all on a legal footing.
And it even extends the list of people who can authorise crimes to include the Food Standards Agency and the Gambling Commission.
Labour bravely called for abstention on the bill. It supports putting into law the licence to commit a crime.
Labour’s cunning plan is, as with the bill to legalise torture last month, to allow the legislation to progress but to press the government for “robust safeguards”.
This is as useless as it is dangerous.
It is a deliberate attempt to go along with right wing legislation to show that Keir Starmer’s Labour is a safe pair of hands.
To be fair, Labour opponents of the bill forced a vote on the second reading on Monday night. The Unite union made a point of calling for opposition.
The result was that 19 Labour MPs voted against the bill. The rest rushed to catch last orders at the bar.
That the left in parliament has quickly returned to a small number of people with some principles is a shame—but also a lesson. Our ability to defend ourselves against the state will not come from Labour.