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Attorney General v. Blake

[2001] 1 AC 268

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Attorney General v. Blake

United Kingdom House of Lords

[2001] 1 AC 268

Facts

George Blake (defendant) was an agent of MI6, Britain’s secret intelligence agency, who turned double-agent for the Soviet Union in the 1950s. Blake was arrested for espionage in 1961 and sentenced to 42 years in prison. Blake ultimately escaped, defected to the Soviet Union, and remained in Moscow. In 1990, Blake published his autobiography and received £60,000 as an advance on royalties. The information contained in the autobiography was no longer classified as of 1990 but was classified when Blake was an active double-agent in the 1950s. When Blake first joined MI6, he signed a contract that he would not publish any books without the prior permission of the British government (plaintiff). After the publication of Blake’s autobiography, the government successfully sued for breach of contract and sought restitution damages.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead)

Dissent (Lord Hobhouse of Woodborough)

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