MI5 sorry over handling of machete attack case

MI5 has apologised for failing to promptly disclose information to a woman who was attacked with a machete by one of its agents. The woman, known by the alias Beth, has complained to the watchdog which considers complaints against the intelligence services.

In 2022 a BBC investigation revealed the man – who cannot be named for legal reasons – had used his role to coercively control Beth, his ex-partner.

He was physically and sexually abusive, and was filmed threatening to kill her and then attacking her with a machete. Two years ago, the government took the BBC to court to block the story being broadcast.

It failed to do so, but succeeded in gaining him legal anonymity, having argued that the man – a right-wing extremist known publicly as X – would be in danger if publicly named. The BBC argued he should be identified so that women could be warned about such a predatory and violent man.

Beth, represented by the Centre for Women’s Justice, then lodged a formal complaint with the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), a panel of senior judges which investigates human rights claims against MI5, MI6 and GCHQ.

MI5 has always refused to publicly confirm whether or not X was an agent, meaning an authorised informant. Today at a preliminary IPT hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, a barrister for MI5 – also known as the Security Service – said the agency was sorry for failures of disclosure in the case so far. We wish to apologise to the claimant and her representatives,” Neil Sheldon KC said.

He accepted and apologised for the fact that Beth had been forced to prepare legal submissions despite not knowing further information would be disclosed. Mr Sheldon also apologised for failing to properly communicate with the IPT itself, which he accepted was “poor”. IPT lawyers had to send multiple emails chasing MI5 for an answer to a basic question.

In response, Mrs Justice Lieven asked MI5 to “prove the genuineness of the apology” by ensuring such issues did not arise again.

Sarah Hannett KC, counsel for the IPT, used her written submissions to say there was a “lack of any real urgency” on MI5’s part regarding the process of “opening up” information for the case.

Beth is asking the IPT to investigate MI5’s recruitment and handling of X, and whether any steps were taken to address the clear risk of harm he posed. The IPT will consider whether MI5’s conduct breached Beth’s human rights by enabling X to subject her to violence and abuse with impunity.

The preliminary hearing is considering whether MI5 should be able to maintain its position of publicly neither confirming nor denying whether X was an agent. A further secret hearing will take place on Friday. The full trial is scheduled to start in January 2025.

The original BBC investigation exposed how X was able to leave the UK while under police investigation to work for a foreign intelligence service, and showed how MI5 had then obtained X’s belongings from the police.

X also abused and threatened to kill another former female partner and her child, and he then used the woman’s name as a form of cover while working for MI5. He also threatened to kill and sexually abuse young girls and written down his cannibal fantasies about eating children.

Source: BBC

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