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Man jailed for offences under the Official Secrets Act

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A software and analytical engineer, who deliberately leaked highly sensitive military information and data, has been sentenced for offences contrary to the Official Secrets Act following an investigation by the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command. 

After initially pleading not guilty, Simon Finch, 50 (18.03.70) of Southport, pleaded guilty part-way through his trial at the Old Bailey on Monday, 9 November to the following offences:

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– Recording information for a purpose prejudicial to the safety of interests of the state, contrary to section 1 of the Official Secrets Act, 1911;
– Making a damaging disclosure relating to defence, contrary to section 2 of the OSA, 1989;
– Failing to comply with a notice requiring disclosure, contrary to section 53, Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000.

Finch was sentenced on Tuesday, 10 November to a total of four-and-a-half years’ imprisonment comprised of the following:

– Three years’ imprisonment for the offence under section 1, OSA, 1911;
– 12 months’ imprisonment (concurrent) for the offence under section 2, OSA 1989;
– 18 months’ (consecutive) for the offence under section 53, RIPA, 2000.

Finch will also be subject to a five-year Serious Crime Prevention Order upon release from prison.

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.”

The matter came to police attention after Finch emailed a number of recipients in October 2018 – one of whom contacted authorities upon receipt of what appeared to be sensitive military information. Working closely with the Ministry of Defence, the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, as the national lead for Official Secrets Act investigations, launched a police investigation into the matter.

Within the email sent by Finch on 28 October 2018, were details of alleged grievances and injustices Finch felt he had suffered at the hands of UK state authorities, including police, health services and some of his former employers, which included companies contracted by the Ministry of Defence to work on weapons systems and software projects.

Finch went on to explain in his email that in order to redress these perceived injustices against him, he had set about documenting, from his memory, details of highly sensitive information on weapons systems that he had previously worked on. He then claimed to have sent the documents and information to foreign and hostile states and embassies.

Within the email were a number of attachments, most of which contained further details of the various complaints and grievances Finch had with different UK authorities, but also included a document, within which contained Secret and Top Secret information about the defence system Finch had previously worked on.

On the same date Finch emailed the sensitive information, he also posted a video on his social media profiles where he again described events he felt had led to him suffering injustices at the hands of UK state authorities.

Further enquiries were carried out by detectives and Finch was subsequently arrested on 27 March 2019. Detectives recovered computer and electronic devices from Finch’s address, but when asked for the passwords, Finch refused to provide them to the officers. He was served with an order under section 49, RIPA, to provide the passwords to the investigation team, but refused to comply with this order.

He was released on bail whilst officers carried out further enquiries involving highly sensitive information, and Finch was subsequently charged on 17 September 2019 and convicted and sentenced as above.

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