A former security guard at the UK embassy in Berlin has been sentenced to 13 years and two months in prison for spying for Russia.
David Ballantyne Smith, 58, pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to eight charges under the Official Secrets Act. He admitted passing secret information to the Russian authorities but claimed he did not intentionally cause any harm.
Mr Justice Wall said that, in 2020, Smith “established a contact at the Russian embassy” and passed on information, including annotated photos of staff at the British embassy. “You put those people at maximum risk,” the judge said.
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Smith, who worked at the embassy in Berlin from 2016 until his arrest in August 2021, was caught in an undercover sting operation in which fake Russian agents offered him the chance to obtain “highly sensitive information”.
In his defence, he argued that he had only wanted to “inconvenience and embarrass” the embassy, and was suffering from depression at the time.
Smith, from Paisley in Scotland, was a “far cry from the mysterious and thrilling figures drawn in espionage folklore”, said the Evening Standard. Although he had a John Le Carré novel on his bookshelf, he is “the polar opposite of characters from fiction: A man who spent his days at home alone drinking beer, lonely and angry”.
The judge said that there is a strong public interest in protecting secret information, and the sentence must act as a deterrent to others.
“It is not for me to say where your sentence will be served,” he told Smith. The length of his imprisonment will depend on whether he is held in the UK – where he could be released on licence – or in Germany, where rules differ, said the BBC.
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