Thames House, the headquarters of the British Security Service (MI5) is seen in London in October 2015 [File: Peter Nicholls/Reuters]

A policy which allows British security service agents to commit serious criminal activities including violence is lawful, a tribunal ruled by a slim majority on Friday.

Four human rights groups had argued that it was against British law and the European Convention on Human Rights for the MI5 domestic spy agency to permit agents, those who are informants or provide intelligence but do not work directly for the government, to commit crimes, including murder and torture.

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In its submissions, the government said it would be impossible for MI5 to operate, gather intelligence and prevent “terrorist” attacks without using agents and it was

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