The spy who came in from the past escapes prosecution

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The Independent Online

Melita Norwood, the great-grandmother who was exposed earlier this year as one of the Soviet Union's most important Cold War spies, will not be prosecuted. Another four alleged spies, also accused of passing details to the Russians, will also escape prosecution.

Melita Norwood, the great-grandmother who was exposed earlier this year as one of the Soviet Union's most important Cold War spies, will not be prosecuted. Another four alleged spies, also accused of passing details to the Russians, will also escape prosecution.

The decision was revealed yesterday in a written answer to the Commons by the Solicitor General, Ross Cranston QC, who said that after "careful and detailed consideration" it was clear there was little prospect of a successful prosecution being brought.

"As a result it would be quite wrong for the Crown Prosecution Service to ask the police to undertake a criminal investigation," he said. "In the case of Mrs Norwood the intelligence information about her case would not be admissible as evidence, her statements to the media would not be admissible as evidence. There is little prospect of obtaining admissible evidence, and in any event any prosecution would probably be stayed on the ground of abuse of process."

Mrs Norwood, 87, from Bexleyheath, south-east London, was exposed as a Soviet spy in September in The Mitrokhin Archive - a book based on information gathered by Colonel Vasili Mitrokhin, a former KGB chief archivist. Colonel Mitrokhin, who defected to the West in 1992, brought with him up to 60 volumes of files he had copied from the Soviet intelligence service's archives.

He claimed that Mrs Norwood, codenamed Hola and Tina, was one of the KGB's most important spies of the Cold War era. She apparently passed crucial information to her Moscow handlers that helped the Soviet Union develop its own atomic weapons, five years ahead of schedule.

After the revelations in September, Mrs Norwood said her actions had been done to "help others" and she had no regrets. Last night she said: "I am happy that the decision has been made. I am glad that it has been made before Christmas."

The identity of two of the other alleged spies was confirmed yesterday by Mr Cranston. Robin Pearson, a Hull University lecturer, is alleged to have spied for the East German secret police, passing on information about students and academics for 12 years until 1989. He refused to comment yesterday.

John Symonds, 64, a former policeman, was allegedly recruited by the Russians to act as a "Romeo spy", seducing women to obtain secrets. The Solicitor General said Mr Symonds was not being prosecuted because he had been offered immunity in 1984 in connection with a criminal inquiry. The names of the other alleged spies were not revealed.

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