Attorney General praises sentence increase for man who disclosed defence secrets

Brian Farmer, PA
·3-min read

Attorney General Michael Ellis has welcomed a decision by appeal judges to almost double a jail term handed to a disgruntled former defence worker who breached the Official Secrets Act.

Simon Finch, 50, was given a four-and-a-half year jail term in November 2020 for disclosing “damaging” top secret details of a UK missile system, and made the subject of a five-year serious crime and prevention order

Appeal judges have increased the term to eight years.

Finch had admitted recording and disclosing classified information in breach of the Official Secrets Act on the ninth day of an Old Bailey trial.

The judge, Mrs Justice Whipple, rejected his defence of “duress by circumstance”.

Finch, who had been arrested at his home address in Swansea in March 2019, also admitted failing to give authorities access codes to three electronic devices which he had encrypted.

His case had been referred to the Court of Appeal by the Attorney General’s Office under the unduly lenient sentencing scheme.

Simon Finch (Metropolitan Police/PA)
Simon Finch (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Three appeal judges heard arguments at a Court of Appeal hearing earlier this month.

Lord Justice Fulford, Mrs Justice McGowan and Mr Justice Bourne ruled on Thursday ruled that the four-and-half-year term was “unduly lenient” and increased it to eight years.

Mr Ellis, who was then the solicitor general, had argued, at the appeal hearing, that Finch’s jail term was not long enough.

He welcomed the sentence increase.

“Finch deliberately disclosed highly sensitive information which could have put our national security at risk,” said Mr Ellis.

“His actions could have caused significant harm to British citizens and I welcome the Court of Appeal increasing his sentence today.”

A spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office said Finch was formerly employed by two major defence companies who provide contracted services to the Ministry of Defence.

“Finch’s personal circumstances began to deteriorate after he was arrested for carrying a hammer and a large kitchen knife in public.

“He was sentenced to 16 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months in 2016.

“He did not tell his employer of the conviction,” she said, in a statement.

The Old Bailey
A judge at the Old Bailey, pictured, was told last year that Finch could have put servicemen and women in jeopardy if the leaked material had fallen into enemy hands (Nick Ansell/PA)

“Finch subsequently made a series of complaints about the way he was treated by the police.

“In February 2018 he left his job and began to plan the unlawful disclosure, recording from memory highly sensitive details of a UK missile system.

“In October 2018, he deliberately sent the information to several recipients.

“He was arrested at his home address in Swansea in March 2019.

“During the investigation, he refused to disclose the passwords to his personal computers.”

Mr Ellis had told appeal judges that Finch’s offending was “motivated by a personal grievance” and was planned over 10 months.

He had argued the judge who sentenced Finch also gave too much weight to the effect of features of autistic spectrum disorder displayed by Finch.

Finch’s lawyers argued the sentence should remain unchanged.

Mrs Justice Whipple was told last year that Finch could have put servicemen and women in jeopardy if the leaked material had fallen into enemy hands.

She had said, when passing sentence: “This was serious offending which damaged the interest of the UK Government and its citizens.”