Police chief fined as lost secret papers threaten security
ONE of the country’s leading counterterrorism police officers is facing dismissal after he compromised national security by leaving top secret documents in the boot of his car while he went on holiday.
Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale, who ran anti-terror operations in the West Midlands, was charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act when it emerged that the file had been stolen. The documents, which have never been recovered, included information about live terror investigations and were so sensitive that they should never have been removed from a police building. It is feared the information could put undercover police and intelligence officers at risk.
Appearing at Westminster magistrates’ court yesterday, Mr Beale admitted one count of failing to safeguard information under the Official Secrets Act and was fined £3,500.
The court heard Mr Beale left the documents in a locked case in the boot of his car for four or five days last May. During that period, he went shopping, visited the pub and had a long weekend away, leaving the car at an East Midlands railway station for several days.
Mr Beale said he believed the documents had been stolen on May 14, while his car was parked on his driveway, by someone who had used an electronic device to bypass the central locking.
He discovered the theft the following day when he stopped at a service station on the way to a meeting and noticed that case was missing.
Prosecutor Jane Stansfield said if the documents were to be made public it could lead to a “compromise in national security” and “present a specific risk to individuals or communities”.
Potential repercussions could also include a “compromise in intelligence and internal relationships”, she said.
Mr Beale has been suspended and will face disciplinary proceedings, but his lawyer said it was likely he would lose his job.
Chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot said: “It’s obviously incredibly dangerous and potentially very difficult that these documents disappeared in the way that they did. That a police officer, let alone a very senior police officer, thought it was appropriate to leave a briefcase in a car with that sort of papers in it shows a lack of common sense which was worrying.”
Due to the nature of the documents, Scotland Yard led the investigation and the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards is also investigating.