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Spy who tried to sell secret files is freed

PUBLISHED: 17:36 08 September 2010 | UPDATED: 11:10 14 October 2010

A FORMER MI6 spy who tried to sell confidential files to the Dutch for up to £2million walked free from court on Friday. Daniel Houghton, 25, of Allerton House, on the Provost Estate, Hoxton, was caught handing over confidential electronic files, includin

A FORMER MI6 spy who tried to sell confidential files to the Dutch for up to £2million walked free from court on Friday.

Daniel Houghton, 25, of Allerton House, on the Provost Estate, Hoxton, was caught handing over confidential electronic files, including memory sticks and a laptop hard drive detailing MI5's intelligence-gathering techniques to undercover agents.

Houghton, who has dual Dutch and British nationality, was arrested in a sting at a London hotel in March.

The IT expert was detained shortly after the "buyers" handed him a suitcase containing £900,000 in cash in return for the files.

He had originally demanded £2million for the top secret data.

His actions could have put colleagues at risk as he was also offering lists containing details of staff home and mobile telephone numbers.

Houghton was jailed for 12 months at the Old Bailey after admitting two offences under the Official Secrets Act, 1989, but walked free after having served six months behind bars already.

Mr Justice Bean told him: "If this material had found its way into the hands of a hostile power, it could have done enormous damage and put lives at risk.

"The effect on the SIS (Secret Intelligence Service) credibility and the morale of its officers of this kind of act of betrayal is a serious matter.

"You are not a calculating idealogue. If you had been intent on causing harm to this country's interests, you would have chosen a different recipient from the Netherlands.

"This was an unsophisticated offence. You made no attempt to conceal your identity.

"There is a dispute as to your state of mind when you committed these offences. I am not able to resolve it.

"All I can say is that having read the three expert reports you seem to be a strange young man but whether you were hearing voices at that time I don't know.

"Bearing these matters in mind I consider that on each of the two counts they could be concurrent sentences of 12 months' imprisonment.

"As you have served 184 days in custody, this will, I understand, enable you to be released as soon as the necessary formalities have been completed."

Houghton had been accused of stealing electronic files containing techniques for intelligence collection belonging to the British Security Service, MI5, between September 1, 2007, and May 31, 2009.

But he was cleared of the theft charge - which carried a maximum possible penalty of seven years in jail.

Houghton told psychiatrists "he was directed by voices" and there were fears he was schizophrenic.

But a prosecution expert psychiatrist who assessed him said this was "very unlikely to be genuine".

Houghton looked up to his mother in the public gallery as he was told he would be released.

The court was told he will now live with her in Devon.


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