Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Shayler Gets Six Months for Stealing MI5 Secrets

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Shayler Gets Six Months for Stealing MI5 Secrets

Article excerpt

Byline: PAUL CHESTON

RENEGADE MI5 agent David Shayler was jailed for six months at the Old Bailey today and condemned for his "blinkered arrogance" in disclosing MI5 secrets.

Mr Justice Moses told Shayler he took into account the three and a half months he had served in a French prison successfully fighting extradition to Britain and that he would have to serve only three more months before being released on licence.

The judge also said Shayler should send his thanks to his girlfriend Annie Machon for going into the witness box and correcting his impression that the former MI5 officer had been out to make his name in journalism on the back of his leaks to a national newspaper. As a result, the judge said, he had reduced the sentence he would have passed.

Shayler, 36, was convicted yesterday of three charges under the Official Secrets Act of stealing top secret files which the Crown has claimed could have put up to 50 agents at risk.

Shayler had defended himself in the weeklong trial but was found guilty of disclosing 28 documents, which included four classified as top secret and 18 as secret, to The Mail on Sunday and being paid pound sterling40,000 for "expenses".

The Crown has applied for that money to be confiscated and a hearing will be held in February to decide how much Shayler must pay towards the cost of the trial. In the meantime he is appealing to the European Court of Human Rights.

Shayler had worked for MI5 from 1991 to 1996 and on leaving the service had photocopied files, including the 135-page history of the IRA's history with Libya, he claims, in order to expose the illegal and inefficient workings of the security service.

Today the judge told him: "You chose to join the security service and undertook in return for the benefits of that employment an obligation not to disclose documents without lawful authority.

"You broke that undertaking and copied top secret documents and handed them to others, who I accept were limited in number, but you lost control over them - and your actions were planned in advance."

The judge said that Shayler knew full well that leaking MI5 secrets would leave himself liable to prosecution and imprisonment but "you decided what you thought was in the public's interest - you didn't seek permission nor sought legal advice". …

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