A former BAE Systems software engineer who allegedly leaked top-secret details about a frontline missile system also ignored orders from police to hand over passwords to his electronic devices, a court has heard.
Simon Finch, of Swansea, is said by prosecutors to have emailed details of the unidentified missile system to nine separate addresses. He was charged with offences under the UK’s Official Secrets Act as well as the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) last year, as we reported at the time.
Mark Heywood QC, prosecuting, told the Central Criminal Court in London: “Expert evaluation has concluded that the release of information of that kind, for example to a hostile adversary of the UK, would give them an understanding of the function of that relevant system which in turn would allow them methods of countering it.”
Finch, who worked for both BAE Systems and defence research firm Qinetiq, was said to have encountered “problems in his personal life” before losing his job in 2018. As his life spiralled downwards, fuelled by two homophobic assaults which he claimed police ignored, Heywood told the court that Finch “complained of mistreatment which he said amounted to torture at the hands of police”.
Merseyside Police allegedly mistreated Finch after arresting him for carrying a hammer and a machete in a public place, something he claims to have begun doing after the attacks.
Finch, said Heywood as he read from the email the engineer sent, was allegedly forced to defecate on the floor of his prison cell because police wouldn’t get him to a toilet in time. The Crown alleges that Finch wrote and sent the email – which included details of the missile system’s workings – because he wanted revenge against the UK in general after having his complaints about police mistreatment ignored by everyone he approached.
When police began investigating his October 2018 disclosures Finch did not cooperate, the prosecutor told the jury as reported by newswire Court News UK: “Later on, even after things came to light, he committed, consciously, a further offence. That is to say when he was asked quite simply to give up the passcodes for his electronic devices and given a formal notice to do that, so as to assist the investigation and prevent risk of further disclosure, he refused, so committing a further criminal offence.”
Finch faces two charges under the Official Secrets Act: recording information for any purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the state which was calculated to be or might be or was intended to be directly or indirectly useful to an enemy; and making a damaging disclosure. He is also charged with failing to reveal his passwords to a police worker, under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.
The RIPA clause relating to relinquishing a password was introduced in 2007 and has been controversial ever since. A government barrister called for key safeguards around misuse of the power to be watered down back in January.
Finch denies all charges. The case, under judge Mrs Justice Whipple, continues. ®
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