Ministry of Defence analyst jailed for breaching Official Secrets Act

Ministry of Defence analyst jailed for breaching Official Secrets Act

Ministry of Defence analyst, 50, is jailed for four and a half years for breaching Official Secrets Act by leaking details about UK missile system after claiming he was tortured by UK authorities

  • Analyst Simon Finch, 50, carried out ‘highly sensitive’ work on a missile system   
  • He emailed information about it to nine people after leaving his job of 20 years
  • Finch was jailed for four and a half years at the Old Bailey, London, on Tuesday
  • Judge said his actions had ‘damaged the interest of UK government and citizens’

A disgruntled former defence worker has been jailed after he admitted the ‘damaging’ disclosure of 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 carried out ‘highly sensitive’ work on a missiles system still in use by the armed forces while he was employed at BAE Systems and QinetiQ.

Finch wrote down confidential information from memory before emailing it to nine addresses on 28 October 2018 after leaving his job of more than 20 years. 

The analyst also claimed he had passed on the details to ‘hostile foreign governments,’ complaining to recipients of mistreatment at the hands of the police, NHS and his employers.

The email was sent to Tory MP for Southport Damien Moore and Labour Party-affiliated trade union Unite, as well as other addresses including charities and law firms.

Simon Finch (pictured) disclosed details of the missile system via email and told authorities he had also shared them with ‘hostile’ foreign states

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.’

The trial had heard how the mathematics graduate had worked for BAE Systems (pictured) and QinetiQ, which provide contracted services to the MoD

She added there was a ‘wider harm to the reputation of the United Kingdom’.

Mrs Justice Whipple made Finch, of Swansea, Wales, 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.

Finch had initially pleaded not guilty to two charges of breaching the Official Secrets Act and a charge of refusing to give authorities access codes to three electronic devices. But he was found guilty at the Old Bailey (pictured)

‘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.

He had initially pleaded not guilty to two charges of breaching the Official Secrets Act and a charge of refusing to give authorities access codes to three electronic devices.

As well as working for BAE Systems and QinetiQ (pictured), Finch also worked for the MoD itself in the ‘distant past’

But Finch, of Swansea, Wales, dramatically changed his plea during a trial at the Old Bailey in London.

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.  

Previously, the prosecution had said Finch had been motivated by a desire to exact retribution on the British system, which he felt had let him down. 

Finch admitted breaching the Official Secrets Act by making a ‘damaging’ disclosure and recording information which could be ‘useful to an enemy’ of the state.

He nodded and remained expressionless as he was jailed for just four and a half years.

Earlier Commander Richard Smith, Head of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, said: ‘Finch carried out this act due to a perceived injustice against him.

‘In doing so, he not only put at risk the safety and security of our military personnel, but also put at risk the safety and security of the UK as a whole.

‘He also sought to frustrate our investigation further by refusing to provide passwords to his digital devices.

‘As a long-time employee working on defence projects, he was fully aware of his obligations under the Official Secrets Act and knew full well the impact and implications of both recording this information and then sending it to various recipients over insecure channels.

‘Anyone who leaks secret or sensitive data relating to the UK’s national security should be in no doubt that breaches of this kind will be investigated fully by us and that you will be held to account for your actions before the courts.’ 

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