Defence worker jailed over ‘damaging’ top secret email

Former defence worker changes plea
Former defence worker changes plea (PA Media)
15:36pm, Tue 10 Nov 2020
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A disgruntled former defence worker has been jailed for four and a half years for disclosing “damaging” top secret details of a UK missile system.

Simon Finch 50, could have put servicemen and women in jeopardy if the leaked classified material had fallen into enemy hands, the Old Bailey was told.

He pleaded guilty to recording and disclosing classified information, in breach of the Official Secrets Act, after a senior judge rejected his defence of “duress by circumstance”.

Finch, who had some autistic traits, also admitted failing to give authorities access codes to three electronic devices.

Sentencing on Tuesday, Mrs Justice Whipple said: “This was serious offending which damaged the interest of the UK government and its citizens.”

Finch, who had become disillusioned by British authorities, had not been under any “fear” or “pressure” as he put together classified information from memory at Swansea library and emailed it from a Frankfurt hotel.

The judge said: “These were carefully planned and deliberate offences.

“Your motives were completely misconceived.

“You have no justification either legal or moral for what you did.”

On the harm caused, the judge said: “There is the potential compromise of the missile system itself.

“If classified details about the workings of the missile fall into enemy hands, that might diminish the operational effectiveness of the missile system.

“That puts in jeopardy those United Kingdom servicemen and women who may be engaged in combat operations relying on the missile system.

“It puts in jeopardy members of the public whom the United Kingdom seeks to protect by its military operations.”

She added there was a “wider harm to the reputation of the United Kingdom”.

The Grand Hall of the Central Criminal Court also known as the Old Bailey (John Stillwell/PA) (PA Archive)

Mrs Justice Whipple made Finch subject to a five-year serious crime and prevention order aimed at stopping him from disclosing any more classified information stored in his “near photographic” memory.

The Old Bailey had heard how Finch’s life began to unravel after he reported being the victim of homophobic attacks in 2013.

He began carrying weapons including nunchucks “for protection” when he went out in Southport in Merseyside.

In 2016, he was detained for psychiatric assessment and later handed a suspended sentence for having a hammer and machete in public.

In 2018, he sent an email containing secret defence information to eight people, which he also claimed to have shared with “hostile” foreign states.

Referring to his treatment by Merseyside Police in 2013, he wrote:  “Since the UK has refused me any justice, compensation, or even treatment for these appalling crimes then it has no right to expect my loyalty.

“It is particularly foolish to do this to someone who works upon classified systems, particularly if they are somewhat autistic and have a near-photographic memory.

“If the nation does not care for my security then why should I care for national security?”

Giving evidence in court, Finch told jurors: “I had to do something to generate national exposure.

“It had to be quite serious.

“It had to be something to gather national attention.”

He denied having actually leaked the document to hostile states.

The mathematics graduate had worked for BAE Systems and QinetiQ which provide contracted services to the MoD, as well as the MoD itself in the “distant past”.

He left his job at BAE Systems in February 2018 and moved to Swansea before sending his unencrypted email in October of the same year.

In mitigation, Stuart Trimmer QC told how Finch’s attempts to pursue his complaint against police had left him “at the end of his tether”.

He said: “The events, whether true or not, are in his mind fixed and real.”

Finch was “not a spy” but had been motivated “because of what he understands in his head has happened and his failure to have it rectified”, the barrister said.

Parts of the Old Bailey trial were held in secret to prevent the disclosure of the material in the national interest and jurors were warned “never ever” to reveal what they had heard in the absence of press and public.

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