A restricted internal Ministry of Defence report has strongly criticised an investigation into major security lapses at a secret nuclear weapons site.
The report was produced following an investigation into allegations that MoD police officers protecting the Atomic Weapons Establishment’s site at Burghfield, Berkshire, where the warheads for the UK’s Trident nuclear deterrent are assembled and maintained, were failing to conduct routine patrols and sleeping on the job.
It suggests that junior staff were made scapegoats for the lapses while senior managers avoided sanction and remained in their posts.
After the authorities were alerted by a whistleblower in 2013, the MoD claimed that “at no point was the security of the site or its nuclear assets compromised”. It set up Operation Pease, conducted by the MoD police force’s professional standards department, to investigate the incident.
But a report on how the operation was conducted, released under the Freedom of Information Act and titled “Review of MoD police professional standards department handling of misconduct at Atomic Weapons Establishment Burghfield”, confirms that the security lapses were deemed a “critical” incident by the MoD police.
Police officers at the site who were being investigated were placed on duties away from Burghfield, which meant that large numbers of officers had to be drafted in to provide cover. A special “gold cell” at the Defence Equipment and Support headquarters at Abbey Wood, near Bristol, had to be set up to handle operational issues arising from the affair.
In total, 66 officers were investigated at Burghfield, a high-priority terrorist target that is permanently protected by armed security. Six were found to have committed gross misconduct and were dismissed. A further 25 resigned and 19 more were required to attend misconduct meetings. (end of excerpt)
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