A senior counter terrorism officer has been fined after top secret documents which “could compromise national security” were stolen from his car.
Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale, 54, is facing disciplinary action from West Midlands Police, having pleaded guilty to a charge of failing to safeguard information under the Official Secrets Act.
Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard he left the papers in a locked case in the boot of his unmarked police car for five days while he carried out errands, including a pub visit with a colleague and supermarket shopping.
Prosecutor Jane Stansfield said if the documents, which have not been recovered, are 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 in the intelligence services”, she said.
Beale, who was fined £3,500 at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, has been suspended on full pay since he was summonsed to court in November.
Latest figures show he gets a £119,000 salary, with a total annual remuneration of £145,000, including pensions and benefits in kind.
Sentencing, Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot said: “It’s obviously incredibly dangerous and potentially very difficult indeed that these documents disappeared in the way that they did.”
She added: “No training is needed for a police officer to know that you should not be leaving anything of value in a locked car for five minutes let alone five days.”
The briefcase, containing four documents, which included information about counter terrorism intelligence and investigations, was stolen in May.
The papers included minutes from a high-level counter terror meeting, counter terrorism local profiles, details of regular organised crime and highly sensitive information about a high-profile investigation.
The Metropolitan Police, which investigated the case, refused to disclose any further details about the documents but said they were “highly sensitive and relate to national security”.
Commander Dean Haydon, head of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, said: “In this case urgent steps were taken to mitigate any risks to security caused from the loss of the documents, which have never been recovered.”
Beale immediately alerted his colleagues in counter terrorism after discovering the case, along with an iPod and sunglasses, was missing when he stopped at motorway services on his way to a meeting in Oxfordshire on May 15.
Beale, from the East Midlands, has been a police officer his entire working life and joined West Midlands Police in 2011.
Duncan Atkinson QC, defending, said he has played a crucial role in fighting terrorism in the UK and has “a career’s worth of public service”.
In a statement after the sentence, West Midlands Police’s Deputy Chief Constable Louisa Rolfe said: “Today, Assistant Chief Constable Beale faced grave consequences for a mistake in an otherwise exemplary police career.
“This is a very serious matter and to face criminal charges is devastating for any police officer.
“ACC Beale’s distinguished career includes leading the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit where he oversaw a number of the UK’s most serious terrorism investigations.”