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Official Secrets Act 1911

Official Secrets Act 1911

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The Official Secrets Act 1911 (1 & 2 Geo. 5 c. 28) is an Act
Act of Parliament
An Act of Parliament is a statute enacted as primary legislation by a national or sub-national parliament. In the Republic of Ireland the term Act of the Oireachtas is used, and in the United States the term Act of Congress is used.In Commonwealth countries, the term is used both in a narrow...

 of the Parliament
Parliament
A parliament is a legislature, especially in those countries whose system of government is based on the Westminster system modeled after that of the United Kingdom. The name is derived from the French , the action of parler : a parlement is a discussion. The term came to mean a meeting at which...

 of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

. It replaces the Official Secrets Act 1889
Official Secrets Act 1889
The Official Secrets Act 1889 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It created offences of disclosure of information and breach of official trust . It was replaced for the United Kingdom by the Official Secrets Act 1911.-Bill...

.

The Act applies in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, the Isle of Man
Isle of Man
The Isle of Man , otherwise known simply as Mann , is a self-governing British Crown Dependency, located in the Irish Sea between the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, within the British Isles. The head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who holds the title of Lord of Mann. The Lord of Mann is...

, the Channel Islands
Channel Islands
The Channel Islands are an archipelago of British Crown Dependencies in the English Channel, off the French coast of Normandy. They include two separate bailiwicks: the Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Bailiwick of Jersey...

, and in overseas crown territories and colonies. It also applies to British subject
British subject
In British nationality law, the term British subject has at different times had different meanings. The current definition of the term British subject is contained in the British Nationality Act 1981.- Prior to 1949 :...

s anywhere else in the world.

This Act was repealed for the Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

 by section 3 of the Official Secrets Act 1963.

Section 1 - Penalties for spying


This section is very broadly drafted.

Section 1(1)


This subsection reads as amended:
The words in square brackets were inserted by section 10 of, and the First Schedule to, the Official Secrets Act 1920
Official Secrets Act 1920
The Official Secrets Act 1920 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.-Section 1 - Unauthorised use of uniforms; falsification of reports, forgery, personation, and false documents:Sections 1 and provide:...

.

The words at the end of this subsection were repealed by section 11(2) of, and the first paragraph of the Second Schedule to, the Official Secrets Act 1920
Official Secrets Act 1920
The Official Secrets Act 1920 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.-Section 1 - Unauthorised use of uniforms; falsification of reports, forgery, personation, and false documents:Sections 1 and provide:...

. They are replaced by section 8(1) of that Act.

"For any purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the State"

See Chandler v. DPP [1964] AC 763, [1962] 3 All ER 142, HL
Judicial functions of the House of Lords
The House of Lords, in addition to having a legislative function, historically also had a judicial function. It functioned as a court of first instance for the trials of peers, for impeachment cases, and as a court of last resort within the United Kingdom. In the latter case the House's...



"Prohibited place", s. 1(1)(a)

This expression is defined by section 3 of the Act.

"Enemy", s. 1(1)(b) and (c)

The expression "enemy" includes a potential enemy.

"Felony"

See Criminal Law Act 1967
Criminal Law Act 1967
The Criminal Law Act 1967 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. However, with some minor exceptions, it generally applies to only England and Wales. It made some major changes to English criminal law...

, the Criminal Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1967, and section 8(1) of the Official Secrets Act 1920
Official Secrets Act 1920
The Official Secrets Act 1920 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.-Section 1 - Unauthorised use of uniforms; falsification of reports, forgery, personation, and false documents:Sections 1 and provide:...



Evidence and presumptions

See section 1(2) of this Act and section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1920
Official Secrets Act 1920
The Official Secrets Act 1920 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.-Section 1 - Unauthorised use of uniforms; falsification of reports, forgery, personation, and false documents:Sections 1 and provide:...

.

Sentence


A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.

Examples

Hillaire Barnett described sentences for espionage as "swingeing".

George Blake
George Blake
George Blake is a former British spy known for having been a double agent in the service of the Soviet Union. Discovered in 1961 and sentenced to 42 years in prison, he escaped from Wormwood Scrubs prison in 1966 and fled to the USSR...

 was sentenced to imprisonment for a term of 42 years after pleading guilty to five counts of unlawfully disclosing information contrary to section 1(1)(c). Geoffrey Prime
Geoffrey Prime
Geoffrey Prime is a British former spy for the Soviet Union while working for the Royal Air Force and later for Government Communications Headquarters, the British cryptography agency, during the 1960s and 1970s...

 was sentenced to imprisonment for a total of 35 years for disclosing material while employed at GCHQ. Michael Bettany was sentenced to imprisonment for a total of 23 years. Michael Smith
Michael John Smith (Espionage)
Michael John Smith was born on 22 September 1948. He was charged in the UK with four offences under sections 1 and the Official Secrets Act 1911 in 1992 and convicted on the three of charges under section 1. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison. This was later reduced to 20 years on appeal in...

 was sentenced to imprisonment for 20 years (reduced from 25 on appeal).

History

From 1911 to 1920, an offence under this section was punishable with penal servitude for any term not less than three years and not exceeding seven years.

Related offences


See section 6 of the Official Secrets Act 1920
Official Secrets Act 1920
The Official Secrets Act 1920 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.-Section 1 - Unauthorised use of uniforms; falsification of reports, forgery, personation, and false documents:Sections 1 and provide:...

 and section 5(6) of the Official Secrets Act 1989
Official Secrets Act 1989
The Official Secrets Act 1989 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It repeals and replaces section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911. It is said to have removed the public interest defence created by that section....

.

Section 1(2)


This subsection applies to prosecutions under section 1 of the Official Secrets Act 1920
Official Secrets Act 1920
The Official Secrets Act 1920 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.-Section 1 - Unauthorised use of uniforms; falsification of reports, forgery, personation, and false documents:Sections 1 and provide:...

 as it applies to prosecutions under section 1 of this Act. It now reads:
The words in square brackets were inserted by the Official Secrets Act 1920.

Section 2 - Wrongful communication, &c. of information


This section was repealed for the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 on 1 March 1990. It has been replaced for the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 by the Official Secrets Act 1989
Official Secrets Act 1989
The Official Secrets Act 1989 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It repeals and replaces section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911. It is said to have removed the public interest defence created by that section....

.

Cases under this section
  • See Edgar Lansbury
    Edgar Lansbury (politician)
    Isaac Edgar Lansbury , known as Edgar Lansbury, was a British socialist politician.Lansbury was the son of Labour Party politician George Lansbury. He grew up in Poplar in the East End of London, and joined the Civil Service at a young age...

  • The Isis magazine
    Isis magazine
    The Isis Magazine was established at Oxford University in 1892 . Traditionally a rival to the student newspaper Cherwell, it was finally acquired by the latter's publishing house, OSPL, in the late 1990s...

     case.
  • R v. Aitken, Cairns and another (1971) Unreported, Crown Ct.
  • R v. Aubrey, Berry and Campbell (the ABC trial
    ABC trial
    The ABC Trial was a trial of charges under sections 1 and 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911 trial in United Kingdom. It took place in 1978 and is named after the three defendants: Crispin Aubrey, John Berry and Duncan Campbell...

    ).
  • R v. Tisdall (1984) The Times
    The Times
    The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

    , 26 March 1984 (see Sarah Tisdall
    Sarah Tisdall
    Sarah Tisdall was a Foreign and Commonwealth Office clerical officer who was jailed for leaking British government documents to a newspaper in 1983.-Cruise missiles:...

    ).
  • R v. Ponting [1985] Crim LR 318, Crown Ct (see Clive Ponting
    Clive Ponting
    Clive Ponting is a British writer, former academic and former senior civil servant. He is the author of a number of revisionist books on British and world history...

    ).


Command papers on this section
  • Departmental Committee on Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911 (Cmnd. 5104) (1972) - the Franks Committee.
  • Reform of Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911 (Cmnd. 7285) (1978)
  • Reform of Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911 (Cm. 408) (June 1988)

Section 3 - Definition of prohibited place


The words in square brackets were inserted or substituted by the Official Secrets Act 1920
Official Secrets Act 1920
The Official Secrets Act 1920 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.-Section 1 - Unauthorised use of uniforms; falsification of reports, forgery, personation, and false documents:Sections 1 and provide:...

.

"ship"

References in this Act, whatever their terms, to ships, vessels or boats or activities or places connected therewith are to be construed as including references to hovercraft and activities and places connected with hovercraft.

"any place belonging to or used for the purposes of His Majesty", s.3(c)"

For the purposes of section 3(c), a place belonging to or used for the purposes of the Civil Aviation Authority is deemed to be a place belonging to Her Majesty.

For the purposes of section 3(c), any place belonging to or used for the purposes of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority
United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority
The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority is a UK government research organisation responsible for the development of nuclear fusion power. It is an executive non-departmental public body of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and was formerly chaired by Lady Barbara Judge CBE...

 is deemed to be a place belonging to or used for the purposes of Her Majesty.

For the purposes of section 3(c), every "site to which a permit applies" (within the meaning of paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 to the Nuclear Installations Act 1965) is deemed to be a place belonging to or used for the purposes of Her Majesty.

Places declared to be prohibited places under section 3(c)

Each of the following places, being a site belonging to or used for the purposes of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, has, on the ground that information with respect thereto, or damage thereto, would be useful to an enemy, been declared to be a prohibited place for the purpose of this section:
  • The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority site at Harwell, Didcot, Oxfordshire, OX11 0RA.
  • The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority site at Windscale, Seascale, Cumbria,CA20 1PF.


Each of the following places, being a site to which a permit applies within the meaning of paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 to the Nuclear Installations Act 1965, has, on the ground that information with respect thereto, or damage thereto, would be useful to an enemy, been declared to be a prohibited place for the purpose of this section:
  • The British Nuclear Fuels plc site at Sellafield, Seascale, Cumbria, CA20 1PG.
  • The British Nuclear Fuels plc site at Capenhurst, near Chester, Cheshire, CH1 6ER.
  • The Urenco (Capenhurst) Limited site at Capenhurst, near Chester, Cheshire, CH1 6ER.


Orders made under section 3(c)

Electronic communications stations and offices

Any electronic communications station or office belonging to, or occupied by, the provider of a public electronic communications service is a prohibited place for the purposes of this Act.

History


From 1984 to 2003, any telecommunications station or office belonging to, or occupied by, a public telecommunications operator was a prohibited place for the purposes of this Act.

Section 7 - Penalty for harbouring spies


This section now provides:
The words in square brackets were substituted for the words "wilfully refuses" by section 10 of, and the First Schedule to, the Official Secrets Act 1920
Official Secrets Act 1920
The Official Secrets Act 1920 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.-Section 1 - Unauthorised use of uniforms; falsification of reports, forgery, personation, and false documents:Sections 1 and provide:...

.

The words at the end of this subsection were repealed by section 11(2) of, and the first paragraph of the Second Schedule to, the Official Secrets Act 1920
Official Secrets Act 1920
The Official Secrets Act 1920 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.-Section 1 - Unauthorised use of uniforms; falsification of reports, forgery, personation, and false documents:Sections 1 and provide:...

. They are replaced by section 8(1) of that Act.

"Misdemeanour"

See the Criminal Law Act 1967
Criminal Law Act 1967
The Criminal Law Act 1967 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. However, with some minor exceptions, it generally applies to only England and Wales. It made some major changes to English criminal law...

, the Criminal Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1967 and section 8(2) of the Official Secrets Act 1920
Official Secrets Act 1920
The Official Secrets Act 1920 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.-Section 1 - Unauthorised use of uniforms; falsification of reports, forgery, personation, and false documents:Sections 1 and provide:...

.

Sentence

A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, or to a fine not exceeding the prescribed sum
Prescribed sum
The prescribed sum is the maximum fine that may be imposed on summary conviction of certain offences in the United Kingdom. In England and Wales and Northern Ireland, it is now equivalent to level 5 on the standard scale, which it predates...

, or to both.

History

From 1911 to 1920, a person guilty of an offence under this section was liable to imprisonment with or without hard labour for a term not exceeding one year, or to a fine,
or to both imprisonment and a fine.

Section 8 - Restriction on prosecution


This section provides that a prosecution for an offence under this Act may only be instituted by, or with the consent of, the Attorney General
Attorney General for England and Wales
Her Majesty's Attorney General for England and Wales, usually known simply as the Attorney General, is one of the Law Officers of the Crown. Along with the subordinate Solicitor General for England and Wales, the Attorney General serves as the chief legal adviser of the Crown and its government in...

.

Section 9 - Search warrants


This section now provides:
The words "named therein" in square brackets in section 9(1) were repealed for England and Wales by section 119(2) of, and Part I of Schedule 7 to, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984
Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984
The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 is an Act of Parliament which instituted a legislative framework for the powers of police officers in England and Wales to combat crime, as well as providing codes of practice for the exercise of those powers. Part VI of PACE required the Home Secretary...

.

Section 9(1) is extended by section 11(3) of the Official Secrets Act 1989
Official Secrets Act 1989
The Official Secrets Act 1989 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It repeals and replaces section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911. It is said to have removed the public interest defence created by that section....

.

"Oath", s.9(1)

This expression includes affirmation
Affirmation in law
In law, an affirmation is a solemn declaration allowed to those who conscientiously object to taking an oath. An affirmation has exactly the same legal effect as an oath, but is usually taken to avoid the religious implications of an oath...

 and declaration.

Section 11- Saving for laws of British possessions


This section now provides:
The words omitted were repealed by section 1(1) of, and Part XII of Schedule 1 to, the Statute Law (Repeals) Act 1986.

The power conferred by this section has been exercised by the following Orders:

Section 13 - Short title and repeal


Section 13(2) repealed the Official Secrets Act 1889
Official Secrets Act 1889
The Official Secrets Act 1889 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It created offences of disclosure of information and breach of official trust . It was replaced for the United Kingdom by the Official Secrets Act 1911.-Bill...

. It was repealed by the Statute Law Revision Act 1927 because it was spent
Spent law
A spent law or spent enactment is a piece of legislation which is still in force, but which could be repealed without any practical consequences.-United Kingdom:The repeal of spent legislation is primarily the responsibility of the Law Commission...

 by virtue of the Interpretation Act 1889 (effect of repeal of repeal).

European Communities Act 1972


Section 11(2) of the European Communities Act 1972
European Communities Act 1972 (UK)
The European Communities Act 1972 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom providing for the incorporation of European Community law into the domestic law of the United Kingdom. It is not to be confused with the Irish law of the same name, Act No...

 must be construed and the Official Secrets Acts 1911 to 1939 have effect, as if that section were contained in this Act but so that sections 10 and 11, except section 10(4), do not apply.

See also

  • Official Secrets Act
    Official Secrets Act
    The Official Secrets Act is a stock short title used in the United Kingdom, Ireland, India and Malaysia and formerly in New Zealand for legislation that provides for the protection of state secrets and official information, mainly related to national security.-United Kingdom:*The Official Secrets...

  • Zircon affair
    Zircon affair
    The Zircon affair was an incident in 1986 that raised many important issues in the British constitution.During the winter of 1985–1986, journalist Duncan Campbell was commissioned by the BBC to make six half-hour television documentaries under the title Secret Society...

  • Defense Secrets Act of 1911
    Defense Secrets Act of 1911
    The Defense Secrets Act of 1911 was one of the first laws in the United States specifically criminializing the disclosure of government secrets. It was based in part on the British Official Secrets Act and criminalized obtaining or delivering "information respecting the national defense, to which...

     (United States)

External links


Parliamentary debates

  • http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/lords/1911/jul/17/official-secrets-bill-hl
  • http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/lords/1911/jul/25/official-secrets-bill-hl
  • http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/lords/1911/aug/01/official-secrets-bill-hl
  • http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/lords/1911/aug/02/official-secrets-bill-hl
  • http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1911/aug/17/official-secrets-bill-lords
  • http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1911/aug/18/official-secrets-bill-lords
  • http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1911/aug/18/clause-1-penalties-for-spying
  • http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/lords/1911/aug/18/official-secrets-bill-hl
  • http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1911/aug/22/royal-assent