Former civil servant jailed for leaking highly sensitive military information

Software and analytical engineer with “near photographic memory” handed four-and-a-half year sentence for breaking Official Secrets Act
Simon Finch Metropolitan Police

By Jim Dunton

12 Nov 2020

A former civil servant has been jailed for four-and-a-half years for deliberately leaking highly sensitive military information and data in what the Old Bailey heard was a response to grievances against different UK authorities.

Simon Finch, aged 50, formerly of Southport, worked for the Ministry of Defence at the beginning of his career but was more recently employed by contractors working on MoD weapons systems and software projects. 

He came to the attention of the Metropolitan Police in October 2018 after sending e-mails to a number of people setting out injustices he said he had suffered at the hands of the police, health authorities and some of his former employers.  

Finch’s e-mail, which was forwarded to the police by one recipient, said that to address his grievances he had set about documenting from 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.

The Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, which leads on  Official Secrets Act investigations, looked into the issue along with the MoD as Finch’s e-mail included a document with information classified as “Secret” and “Top Secret” about a defence system Finch had previously worked on.

Finch this week pleaded guilty to two offences under the Official Secrets Act and one offence under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act part-way through his trial. 

Before Finch’s plea change, jurors heard that his e-mail had gone to recipients including charities, law firms and an MP.  They also heard that in his e-mail Finch described himself as having a “near photographic memory” and had spent months documenting the military projects he had worked on.

The court heard Finch moved to Swansea in 2018 after leaving his job at one defence contractor.

The Official Secrets Act offences he admitted related to recording information prejudicial to the interests of the state and making a damaging disclosure relating to defence. The RIPA offence related to Finch’s refusal to comply with an order requiring him to provide passwords for digital devices seized by investigators.

Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command head Richard Smith said Finch had not only put the safety and security of military personnel at risk but also that of the nation as a whole.

“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,” Smith said.

“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.”

In addition to his four-and-a-half year prison sentence, Finch will also be subject to a five-year Serious Crime Prevention Order on his release. 

An MoD spokesperson said: “We welcome the conviction and were happy to assist the Metropolitan Police throughout their investigation.”

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