Top judge demands severe sentences for traitors

Cathy Gordon,Press Association
Thursday 25 June 2009 11:49 BST

Offences of treachery must be met with severe deterrent prison sentences to provide protection for members of the armed forces who risk their lives for the country, the Lord Chief Justice said today.

Lord Judge, sitting in the Court of Appeal in London, sent out a clear message as he announced the reasons for dismissing a sentence appeal on 11 June in the case of an army corporal who was jailed for ten years for spying for Iran.

Daniel James, who was the personal interpreter to Britain's top general in Afghanistan and had access to the highest echelons of the Nato mission in Kabul, was caught red-handed betraying his country in a series of coded emails.

In written reasons handed down in court today explaining why the appeal was rejected, Lord Judge said that the sentence of 10 years imposed in November last year on James, now 46, of Cliff Road, Brighton, was "not manifestly excessive".

Lord Judge stressed: "The court has a duty to those members of the armed forces risking life and health and safety through loyal service to the interests of this country to provide such protection as can be provided in the fortunately very rare cases indeed of possible treachery from those working alongside them and who are treated as trusted colleagues."

The sentence imposed on James "properly reflected the deterrent element which necessarily must govern every sentencing decision in cases of treachery".

James was found guilty at the Old Bailey of a single count of communicating information useful to an enemy.

The charge, under the Official Secrets Act, related to emails he sent to Colonel Mohammad Hossein Heydari, military attache at the Iranian embassy in Kabul.

Iranian-born James, who came to Britain as a teenager, was in the dock of the Court of Appeal on June 11 to hear Lord Judge, sitting with two other judges, dismiss his appeal against his "too long" jail term, but was not present today.

The appeal judges today emphasised the seriousness of any case "where a member of the armed forces, however junior, serving abroad in a theatre of military operations, chooses to disclose information to anyone which may be of use, directly or indirectly, to an enemy of this country or prejudicial to the interest and safety of his colleagues and companions serving in a war zone and at daily risk of death or serious injury".

Lord Judge said: "The element of intended betrayal of serving colleagues makes this a very serious offence indeed."

He added: "Fortunately, cases like these are very rare.

"When they do occur there must be no doubt that even if the information disclosed is not proved to have caused any actual damage, and was brought to a halt before any such damage may have occurred, the deterrent element in the sentence is absolutely fundamental."

The judge said: "In fact, although no individual serving soldier was directly affected by the appellant's activities, they did have a direct impact on the military relationships between NATO forces and the Afghan Government, and this alone might well have made the task of serving soldiers lengthier and more hazardous."

James, a flamboyant fantasist who styled himself "General James", believed he had been denied promotion because of racism and jealousy.

The Territorial Army soldier, who was working for General David Richards at the time of his arrest in 2006, denied being a spy.

James, a salsa dance teacher in civilian life, claimed he had remained a loyal soldier.

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