MAIDSTONE: William Vassall, the self-confessed spy, who was blackmailed by the Russians into spying for them because he was gay and homosexuality was illegal in Britain, has been released from prison, on parole — after waiting nearly four years.
William, who has changed his name by deed poll while in prison, was rushed out of prison by his lawyer after serving ten years of the 18 year sentence passed on him for handing over Government secrets to the Russians.
He said at his trial that he was a homosexual and that the Russians had blackmailed him by getting him involved in gay sex while he was working in Moscow. This they filmed through a mirror. Because gayness was illegal when William Vassall was tried for treason, this “blue” footage was excellent blackmailer’s stock.
While he was working as a spy, William received ridiculously little for the work he was doing. His danger-man work added a mere £700 a year to his income as a junior clerk at the Admiralty.
It was this trial that caused the further erosion of public trust in the Admiralty, which controls Britain’s own secret service. Evidence at the trial also named a senior official at the Admiralty who, it was said, was planning to escape with Vassall to Russia, Mr Thomas Galbraith.
Mr Galbraith was a much more important man in the navy department than William Vassall and the Macmillan Government had to set up the Radcliffe tribunal to investigate Britain’s security measures.
The weaknesses in Government bureaucracy shown up by the Radcliffe tribunal which jailed two pressmen who refused to disclose their sources of information, helped to destroy popular trust in the Macmillan administration, which fell in 1963.
Happy days may be here again for William Vassall, but there are several questions worth asking:
Why was a ‘model prisoner’ (E. Standard) kept waiting four years for parole?
Why were the papers given so much detail about the day-to-day life of the man they used to call Aunty at the Admiralty?
How long will papers such as the Evening Standard brand him a traitor and keep him in its viewfinders? He may have been a spy, but he’s done ten years in prison and he’s now on parole.
What will the police check on when he makes his regular parole calls on the local constabulary? His sex-life?