The Attorney General complained to the Press Council about the Sun’s Geoffrey Prime allegations

Annual Report of the Press Council, Volumes 29-31
Press Council, 1982/1983

[Page 113]

Attorney General’s complaint upheld

The Sun produced no evidence for its allegation that at the trial of the spy Geoffrey Prime the attorney General, Sir Michael Havers, held back mention of the accused man’s involvement with a child-sex organisation to avoid embarrassing security chiefs, Council said when upholding Sir Michael’s complaint that the editor refused to withdraw this false allegation and declared that the editor should either have substantiated or withdrawn it.

Brian Dixon had reported that Prime’s perverse obsession with little girls, which laid him open to blackmail, was not discovered by the security services. Papers found at his home showed he belonged to a child-sex organisation, Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), but no evidence about the find was given at his Old Bailey trial. US spymasters were furious and could not understand how British vetters did not discover Prime’s peculiarities. They were convinced the Attorney General did not mention the involvement with PIE to save embarrassing British security chiefs.

For the Attorney General, Mr J. Nursaw, complained to the editor, Mr Kelvin MacKenzie, that Sir Michael knew of no evidence connecting Mr Prime with PIE, and the Director of Public Prosecutions had assured him police found none. The Attorney General sought a prominent correction as soon as possible. Mr MacKensie replied that Mr Dixon stood by every word. His source was a senior police officer. One of the magazines found at Mr Prime’s home was sold only to PIE members. He would not run a correction but would write to Sir Michael.

Adjudication: The Sun’s story about the background of the spy Geoffrey Prime was written by a reporter of long experience and high reputation, Mr Brian Dixon. He has provided the Council with a detailed statement of what proved to be true – background information about Mr Prime which he gathered from a long established but unnamed contact. Mr Dixon has said that the contact also told him police found two Paedophile Information Exchange magazines at Mr Prime’s home. The magazines were later mentioned to the reporter by a senior London police officer, also unnamed, and another anonymous police contact said the Americans had expected Mr Prime’s involvement with a child-sex cult to come out at his trial.


  1. Troyhand said:
    The Canberra Times – Thursday 11 November 1982
    British spy jailed for 38 years

    LONDON, Wednesday (AAP-PA). — Mr Geoffrey Prime, a former employee of the British Government’s secret communications headquarters at Cheltenham, was jailed for 35 years after pleading guilty at the Old Bailey today to seven charges of spying.

    The Attorney-General, Sir Michael Havers, told the court that Mr Prime had been in persistent communication with the Soviet Union for almost 14 years and that his actions had caused “exceptionally grave damage”.

    The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Lane, said Mr Prime was a “ruthless and rationally motivated spy”. He imposed a further three-year sentence, to be served cumulatively, on three separate charges of indecently assaulting young girls between 1980 and 1982, which Mr Prime admitted also.

    The court went into secret session after Sir Michael outlined details of the sex charges against Mr Prime. Sir Michael said this was necessary to “explain what information was passed and the deep gravity of what Prime did”.

    The secrets charges against Mr Prime were:

    That for purposes prejudicial to the safety and interest of the State between September 30, 1968, and April 29, 1982, he communicated information which was calculated to be or might be or was intended to be directly or indirectly useful to an enemy.

    And that he communicated such information in Berlin between December 31, 1967, and August 1, 1968; in Abbey Wood, London, between May 1 and 31, 1970; in Vienna between September 1 and 30, 1975, between May 1 and 31, 1976, and between May 1 and 31, 1980; and in Potsdam, East Germany, between November 1 and 30, 1981.

    Sir Michael said that after Mr Prime’s arrest for the sexual offences, police had searched his home and had found in his wallet a code-pad, a document explaining how to handle micro dots, a paper with details of radio frequencies and a top-secret memorandum which should not have been in Mr Prime’s possession.

    Police also had taken possession of a radio, two recording tapes, a briefcase, a bag containing notebooks, and 26 envelopes addressed to the eastern sector of Berlin.

    He first had been interviewed about espionage on June 8, 1982, and had admitted visiting Vienna on the first occasion, but had said it was for a holiday. He had admitted visiting Vienna again, in 1980, and Potsdam in 1981 at the request of his contact, but had denied passing on information. He had admitted receiving £2,000 from the Russians but had said he had never got around to working for them.

    He had said he had been given a briefcase with a secret compartment containing spying equipment in 1974.

    On June 26 this year, during another interview with police, he had said, “I now wish to tell you the whole truth of this tragic affair”.

    “According to that statement, Prime began to feel sympathy for the Soviet regime in the mid-1960s and when returning from leave, handed a note to a Soviet officer manning a checkpoint into West Berlin, indicating that he wished to make contact,” Sir Michael said. “Later he found a metallic cylinder attached to the door of his car. The cylinder contained a note which directed him to Friedrichstrasse station where he was met by Russian agents.

    “He explained that he wished to give them any information they wanted. Thereafter Prime met his contacts, Igor and Valya, regularly until July 1968.”

    He had been encouraged to apply for employment as a linguist in the Civil Service, and had obtained the job, but before beginning work had returned to East Berlin and had received extensive training in the “arts of the spy”.

    He had returned to England with the brief case carrying code-pads in the secret compartment, to enable him to decipher messages sent to him by radio and to encipher messages sent back to the Russians.

    He had been given the code-name Rowlands and a password for use when meeting contacts.

    In May, 1970, Mr Prime had taken photographs of documents with a miniature camera and had left them at a secret hiding place in a wood near London.

    In 1976 and 1977 he had taken 15 rolls of film, amounting to about 500 photographs, of top-secret documents. By 1977, he had found the pressure of living a double life too much, and had decided to defect, “and indeed booked flights, but on each occasion did not go through with it”.

    He had expressed “regret for his betrayal of the trust placed in him by the Government, and shame and remorse for the anguish and suffering he had caused to his wife and family.”

  2. Troyhand said:
    The Canberra Times – Sunday 5 December 1982
    New incidents give Britain spy jitters

    BRITAIN is suffering from a bad case of spy jitters.

    Less than a month after “master spy” Geoffrey Prime was jailed for 38 years for handing over top secret information to the Soviet Union, a young lance-corporal based at the sensitive intelligence corps at Aldershot has been under interrogation after he was trailed to the Soviet Embassy; and it has “been alleged that a Canadian professor, now on trial at the Old Bailey, once had dinner with the former head of the KGB, Mr Andropov.

    A JAK cartoon in the London evening newspaper The Standard might sum up the feeling here: two dapper-looking moustachioed members of the M15, a map of Britain on the wall, and one saying, “I think we’re getting on top it Carruthers. It’s been nearly 24 hours since we’ve found a spy in our ranks.”

    Mr Prime, who was also exposed as – a sexual deviant, admitted to having sold secrets to the Soviets for a few thousand pounds while working in the RAF, the Foreign Office and the top secret communications centre at Cheltenham.

    But he was only brought in from the cold when he was arrested for sex offences against young girls and only trapped as a spy because his wife put Queen and country first.

    At the Old Bailey last month the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Lane, called Mr Prime, 44, a ruthless spy who did “incalculable harm to the interests and security of this country and of our friends and allies”.

    The 38-year term — to “punish and deter” — is-the longest ever imposed by a British court apart from spy George Blake’s 42 years from 1966.

    The case of Mr Prime is not the latest in Britain’s apparently unending spy scandals.

    It has been alleged in the Old Bailey that Canadian professor Hugh George Hambleton was smuggled into Russia in 1975 and personally thanked by Mr Andropov “for his years of spying.”

    The story of the meeting is alleged to have been told to Special Branch officers in London earlier this year when Professor Hambleton was arrested under the Official Secrets Act. The 60 year-old academic has pleaded not guilty to two charges.

    One charge alleges that between 1956 and 1961 he passed information to Soviet agents, material from NATO rated as top secret, secret and confidential. The second charge alleges that between 1956 and 1979 Professor Hambleton obtained information that could be useful to an enemy.

    Three years ago it was the Queen’s personal adviser on art, Anthony Blunt, who was revealed as a spy — the fourth man in the Burgess, Maclean and Philby affair.

    The disgraced former knight had admitted to being a spy for the Soviet Union in 1964 but had been given immunity. The scandal was hushed up until broken in 1979 by actor Andrew Boyle in his book ‘The Climate of Treason’.

    “It looks as though the establishment have once again protected one of their own,” a Labour MP said at the time.

    “As far as 1 can see, if the Queen did know, then the Queen chose to protect him,” MP Mr Stanley Thorne said.

    Maclean, Burgess and Philby joined the foreign service in the late 1930s. Maclean became head of the American Department, Burgess Second Secretary at the Washington Embassy and Philby the link man between the British Secret Service and the CIA.

    In 1951 Burgess and Maclean vanished to the USSR, forewarned by Philby that “the game was up”. In 1963 Philby followed them. Burgess died that year. Maclean and Philby are still in Moscow. — AAP.

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