Civil service contractor arrested on suspicion of spying

Written by Richard Johnstone on 28 September 2017 in News
News

Arrest made under 1911 Official Secrets Act, which sets out penalties for espionage

A government contractor has been arrested on suspicion of spying for an enemy state, the Cabinet Office has confirmed.

According to The Times, a 65-year-old woman who was hired as a contractor was detained in north London on suspicion of breaching the Official Secrets Act after MI5 passed intelligence to police.

The Metropolitan Police would not give details on the nature of the suspect’s work or where she was employed to the paper, stating she was “contracted to carry out work for a government department”.


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The Cabinet Office confirmed to Civil Service World that an individual who was “contracted to work for the government was arrested yesterday for an offence contrary to section 1 of the Official Secrets Act 1911”.

The Official Secrets Act covers civil servants, and section 1 sets out “penalties for spying” for actions “prejudicial to the safety or interests of the state”.

It defines a breach of the legislation to include approaching or entering prohibited places, making any sketch or plan which is intended to be useful to an enemy state, or obtaining or communicating any document or information which is calculated to be useful to an enemy.

For prosecutions, it is not necessary to show that the accused person was guilty of any act prejudicial to the safety or interests of the state, but that “it appears that his purpose was a purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the state”.

According to the The Times, the suspect is not connected with any of the three intelligence agencies – MI5, MI6 or GCHQ – nor are they a military or Ministry of Defence contractor.

A government spokesman said: “An individual who was contracted to work for the government was arrested yesterday for an offence contrary to section 1 of the Official Secrets Act, 1911. It would not be appropriate to comment further as there is an ongoing police investigation.”

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Richard Johnstone is CSW's deputy and online editor and tweets as @RichRJohnstone

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