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Official Secrets Act

Volume 124: debated on Thursday 17 December 1987

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

To ask the Attorney-General if he will provide a consolidated list updated to the most convenient date of proceedings commenced under section 2 of the Official Secrets Act since 1 August 1978 in the manner set out in appendix 2 to the Franks report and the reply to the hon. Member for Barking (Ms. Richardson) on 1 August 1978, Official Report, columns 230–31.

The details of proceedings that have been commenced under section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911 since 1 August 1978 are as follows:

1978

A former corporal in the intelligence corps knowingly passed on information relating to military and defence establishments to two journalists who were deliberately seeking to obtain secret information. Charges were also brought under section 1 but were withdrawn during the trial. They were all convicted under section 2. The former corporal was given a six month sentence suspended for two years. The two journalists were conditionally discharged for three years but ordered to contribute £2,500 towards the costs.

1979

A superintendent in the criminal intelligence branch of the Metropolitan police communicated confidential papers of substantial intelligence value about two men suspected of involvement in international crime to a business man interested in this material. The business man concerned had died by the time the police officer was tried. The police officer was also charged with offences of corruption arising out of the same facts. He was convicted of wrongful communication of information at the Central Criminal Court and fined £500. He was acquitted of the corruption offence.

1979

A senior examiner in bankruptcy engaged in examining the affairs of a professional criminal allowed the criminal to see a confidential report and copy from it. The civil servant was prosecuted in the magistrates' court and was given a three-month prison sentence suspended for one year and fined £500.

1980

A civil servant in the Ministry of Defence was charged in connection with his retention of a number of cassette tapes which had confidential information encoded on them. The proceedings were withdrawn at the Crown court.

1981

An employee of the Department of Health and Social Security and a private detective were convicted summarily of communicating and retaining personal information about members of the public stored on the DHSS computer. Both defendants were ordered to undertake 180 hours of community service and pay £25 each towards the prosecution's costs.

1981

An ex-detective who had been involved in the Yorkshire Ripper inquiry disclosed to a journalist confidential information that had come into his possession during the inquiry. He pleaded guilty before the magistrates and was fined £750 and ordered to pay £200 towards the prosecution's costs.

1982

An able seaman retained in his possession after his discharge a notebook containing confidential information, which he subsequently threatened to sell to an Eastern bloc embassy. He was convicted at the Central Criminal Court and sentenced to three months' imprisonment.

1982

A retired Army captain was prosecuted for failing to take reasonable care of secret orders for use in time of war or civil emergency. He was convicted in the Crown court and given a 12-month sentence suspended for two years. He was also convicted of offences of theft, for which he was fined.

1982

A second secretary at the British embassy in Tel Aviv communicated confidential information to an official in the Egyptian embassy in Tel Aviv. She pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court and was given a nine-month prison sentence suspended for two years.

1982

A CID officer passed details of criminal convictions to an inquiry agent, having obtained the details from the police national computer and criminal record office. The inquiry agent compiled reports for his clients containing this information. The inquiry agent pleaded guilty before the magistrates to five offences under section 2 and was fined a total of £500. The CID officer elected to be tried at the Crown court. The examining magistrate dismissed all but one of the summonses. The prosecution decided there was no merit in proceedings on the remaining summons and it was withdrawn.

1983

An information officer employed by the Central Office of Information failed to take reasonable care of a number of confidential briefs prepared for the United Kingdom delegate attending a ministerial meeting in Brussels. The contents of these briefs subsequently appeared in the press. He pleaded guilty in the magistrates' court and was fined £500.

1983

A former employee at the British high commission in Bangladesh took home confidential material because of pressure at work. He pleaded guilty at the magistrates' court and was fined £1,200.

1984

A serving police officer misused the police national computer to provide unauthorised details of car ownership. He was fined £100 at the Crown court.

1984

A civilian terminal operator on the police national computer disclosed locations of burglaries to a burglar alarm company. He pleaded not guilty but was convicted and fined £200 at the magistrates' court. A number of appeals have been refused. In 1987 he was refused leave to appeal to the House of Lords.

1984

A clerk working in the private office of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office leaked two minutes relating to cruise missiles to a national newspaper. She pleaded guilty at the Crown court and was sentenced to six months' imprisonment.

1985

A member of a financial group at the Home Office directorate of industries and farms (DIF) investigating the relationship of the Home Office with a private company gave confidential documents to a suspect in the police inquiry—a fellow civil servant in DIF. He was committed for trial at Crown court. From the committal proceedings it appeared that his defence would be that he had a discretion to pass these documents to a fellow civil servant. After taking counsel's advice it was decided that the prosecution should not continue.

1985

A civil servant in the Ministry of Defence leaked a copy of an MOD paper re the Belgrano to an MP. He was charged with communicating information to an unauthorised person. Issues raised at the subsequent trial by the defence were whether the MP was a person to whom the defendant was authorised to communicate the information and whether such a disclosure was in the interests of the state. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty.

1985

A solicitor was tried twice at the Crown court on two counts of endeavouring to persuade a police officer to communicate confidential police files to him. At the conclusion of each trial the jury failed to agree. The prosecution decided to proceed no further and offered no evidence.

1986

Four people were prosecuted for being concerned with obtaining and copying classified technical manuals to facilitate identification of marine components. Their alleged purpose was to trade in such components with the Argentinian navy. Three defendants were convicted at the Crown court, fined £400 and given various terms of imprisonment. One defendant subsequently had his conviction quashed on appeal.

1986

A clerk in the Department of Health and Social Security gave personal information about claims made by the husband of a local councillor to a rival councillor. The clerk pleaded guilty at the Crown court and was sentenced to three months' imprisonment suspended for two years. The councillor pleaded not guilty but was convicted at the Crown court. He was sentenced to six months' imprisonment suspended for two years.

1987

A civilian employee at New Scotland Yard gave a person details of police vehicles for £50. He pleaded guilty at the magistrates' court and was sentenced to two months' imprisonment suspended for two years.

1987

A former soldier who had served in Northern Ireland was charged with offences of retaining and communicating documents. The material was very sensitive and would have been of considerable assistance to terrorists. He pleaded guilty at the Crown court and was sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment.

1987

A journalist obtained police documents about a suspect from an unidentified source. He was charged with unlawfully receiving a document knowing or having reasonable ground to believe at the time of receipt that the document was communicated to him in contravention of the Act. At the trial at the Crown court the defence submitted that he would give evidence that he knew that the documents should not have been passed to him and the passing of them might have been a disciplinary offence by the communicator, but that he did not know that it was an offence under the Act. In the absence of proof of knowledge of contravention of the Act, the trial judge upheld the defence submission of no case to answer.