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The Government spent £376,775 on legal fees to keep the identity of an MI5 agent who abused her ex-partner before going abroad to work for a foreign intelligence agency, it can be revealed.
Labor said ministers had lost “any opportunity” to recover money spent on protecting the agent, who had a background in right-wing extremism, “the moment some put the case in the public domain”.
The case of the informant, who reportedly attacked his ex with a knife and used his position within the domestic intelligence service to further threaten her, was first revealed in January.
A newspaper report revealed that Attorney General Suella Braverman at the time sought an injunction against the BBC, which was trying to run a story identifying the agent as working overseas.
The BBC insisted that there was a public interest in revealing the man’s identity because of his domestic abuse. But “a source” told The Daily Telegraph that doing so would “put people’s lives at risk” and have “very serious consequences” for the corporation.
Ultimately, the BBC ran a story on the man – known only as X for legal reasons – but could not reveal his identity because the government had granted an injunction preventing his name from being published. The story revealed that the man, a foreign national, intimidated the woman and at one point threatened to kill her.
According to government figures seen by The Independent, between January 1 and November 18, the government spent £376,775.18 on keeping her name secret. It is not known how much the BBC spent on the case, some of which was heard privately due to national security concerns. The corporation has been contacted for comment.
Ms Braverman, who was sacked by former prime minister Liz Truss over security breaches, was attorney general when the briefing was given.
MI5 has a policy of not releasing its officers or information
Earlier this month, a judge said Ms. Braverman had failed to prove a government source did not leak confidential details of the case.
Mr Justice Chamberlain made the comments as he ruled against the Government’s bid for the BBC to pay its legal costs.
Emily Thornberry, Labour’s shadow attorney general, said: “The decision to give The Telegraph an exclusive briefing that the attorney general is seeking an injunction against the BBC … has cost the taxpayer up to £377,000.
“The questions that urgently need to be answered are who gave that briefing, who approved that briefing and what the consequences were to Rishi Sunak when he appointed the cabinet last month.”
The Attorney General’s office has been contacted for comment.
Mr Braverman’s case was mounted on the “presumptive assumption” that X was an agent because MI5 has a policy of not revealing the identities of agents or informants.
According to the BBC, he left the UK to live abroad and went to work for a foreign intelligence agency.
In the BBC story, the woman, named Beth by the corporation to protect her identity, was told by X that she could not report his abusive behavior because she worked for the intelligence service.
“This meant that I couldn’t talk about any of his behavior towards me, the violence I went through, sexual or physical, because he had men in high places who were always behind him, who would intervene and who would actively work. .Kill me if I speak,” he said.
Beth said X was paid to inform the network of right-wing extremists but he appeared to share their beliefs and often praised the genocide of white supremacists.
He told her he wanted to commit an atrocity himself, Beth said.
Beth reported the beating to the police but the case was later dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service. Police and CPS said there was a lack of evidence.
The man later became the subject of another police investigation that attracted counter-terrorism officers, when it emerged that he had written in a diary about the killing of Jews and kept Nazi material.
But he left the country before the investigation was completed.
A second woman, who had a relationship with X, said he was also abusive towards her.