Ex-MI6 agent charged over planned memoirs

Tue, Nov 4, 1997, 00:00

The first MI6 agent to be arrested under Britain's Official Secrets Act since the conviction of George Blake in the 1960s was remanded in custody for a week at Bow Street Magistrates Court in London yesterday. The charges, under section one of the Act, relate to his attempts to publish a book in Australia about his experiences in the intelligence services.

Mr Richard Tomlinson (34), a graduate in aeronautical engineering who was a member of MI6 between 1992 and 1995, has continually insisted that his former employers prevented him from bringing his grievances before an independent tribunal because the details were deemed too sensitive.

In keeping with the secrecy of the intelligence services, Mr Tomlinson had, until yesterday, been referred to only as "Mr T" or "Agent T", but in court yesterday his barrister, Mr Owen Davies, successfully applied for all reporting restrictions to be lifted. Mr Davies said the charges against his client did not represent "in any shape or form the case of a person knowingly or unknowingly betraying secrets to an enemy".

Section one of the Official Secrets Act refers to the disclosure of "information, document or other article" obtained while a member of MI6, but the case was a simple disagreement between an employer and an employee who believed he had not been given adequate redress. "It is not a man who is dangerous to his country," Mr Davies told the court. However, the prosecution claimed Mr Tomlinson might "flee the country" and his bail application was turned down.

Mr Tomlinson, who is facing a two-year sentence if he is convicted, holds dual British and New Zealand nationality. In May, MI6 agents travelled to Australia to read proofs of a book he was alleged to have been planning to pass to a publisher.

In 1995, Mr Tomlinson was dismissed from MI6 after what was described by the intelligence agency as a personality clash with his superiors. After his dismissal, Mr Tomlinson told MI6 that he intended to write a book explaining the nature of his activities in Bosnia and Moscow and, in what was designed to be a particularly damaging exercise, he also threatened to send his allegations to newspapers using e-mails and his knowledge of the Internet.

Blake was sentenced to 42 years in 1961 for passing secrets to the Soviet Union. He escaped after five years and lives in Moscow.