Blogs > Cliopatria > Who has sold out Britain to its enemies?

Dec 21, 2006 10:13 pm

Who has sold out Britain to its enemies?

Prosecutions under the Official Secrets Act - and, especially under its most draconian provision, Section I - are rare.
But they often lead to dramatic courtroom scenes, provided the evidence can be heard in public at all.

The most notorious spy of modern times was George Blake, a double agent working for MI6 who passed on secrets to the Soviets. He was charged on five counts of espionage under the Official Secrets Act in 1961.

At the end of his trial, part of which was held in camera, he was sentenced to the maximum of 14 years on each of three counts, to run consecutively - a total of 42 years. It was the longest jail term handed down to an individual.

He is believed to have betrayed the names of more than 40 British agents to the Soviets. Many disappeared, and were thought to have been executed.

His actions devastated British secret service operations in the Middle East.

Lord Parker, the Lord Chief Justice, on sentencing him likened his actions to treason, and said, "It is one of the worst that can be envisaged other than in a time of war.

But after serving five years, he escaped from Wormwood Scrubs and fled to Moscow.
Klaus Fuchs, a German-born atom scientist and civil servant, was charged under the Official Secrets Act in 1950. He had fled to Britain in 1933 to escape Nazi persecution but was a committed Communist who used his position at the Harwell atomic research centre to pass secrets to the Soviets.

Sir Hartley Shawcross, KC, who opened the case for the prosecution, said Fuchs was motivated by an "unswerving devotion to Communism". Jailing him for 14 years, Lord Goddard, the Lord Chief Justice, said: "You have betrayed the hospitality and protection given to you by this country with the grossest treachery."

Fuchs died in 1988.

In 1961, five members of the Portland Spy Ring went on trial charged with plotting to pass secrets to the Russians....

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