A former BAE Systems engineer accused of failing to hand over his device passwords to Merseyside Police vowed not to give them up until a watchdog investigated his allegations that police workers had perverted the course of justice, the Old Bailey heard.
In a letter read to the court, Simon Finch is said to have told Detective Constable Tim Putney of the Met Police: "Dear Sir, I shall provide de-encryption keys to all devices once the IOPC conducts a fair and thorough investigation into the allegations of perverting the course of justice, discrimination and torture which I made against Merseyside Police."
Finch is accused, as previously reported, of failing to hand over his passwords to police on demand – a crime in the UK – and of revealing secrets about a UK missile system to various foreign countries and other individuals, contrary to the Official Secrets Act. He is alleged by prosecutors to have emailed details of the unnamed system to hostile states as revenge for his claimed maltreatment by police.
The Court News UK newswire reported from the Old Bailey on Friday (30 October) that Finch alleges Merseyside Police deliberately mistreated him, following his arrest for carrying nunchuks and a knife in public.
Finch claims the same police force previously refused to take his reports of homophobic assaults seriously and that his mistreatment at the police station was retaliation for his having pursued complaints against the force to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
The court heard on Friday that he also said he would "rather do the extra five years in prison" for refusing to give police workers passwords to his computers and smartphones. A mental health nurse who assessed Finch, Nicola Parkin, told the Old Bailey that Finch had boasted to her that his laptops were encrypted and that he knew the passwords but would not hand them over.
She is also said to have told the court that she discovered he had previously been diagnosed with "delusional disorder", though stopped short of stating that his mental health was the reason the former BAE Systems software engineer had ended up appearing at the Central Criminal Court with all hopes of resuming his former career dashed to pieces.
Failing to give your password to police is a criminal offence under section 49 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. After Finch's arrest on suspicion of breaking the Official Secrets Act, police demanded his passwords, leading to his refusal to hand them over.
A law firm said in 2018 that one of its clients was threatened with a s49 RIPA notice after refusing to let HMRC trawl through his computer, stating: "The problem with this is that there could be a completely disproportionate result if someone is imprisoned for not providing a password but not the crime they are originally under investigation for, of which they might be innocent."
Finch's trial continues. The jury are set to hear evidence about his alleged disclosure of missile system secrets in private to preserve national security. ®