Three Bulgarian National alleged Russian spies have been arrested and charged in the UK. What is their worst possible outcome on the other end of this?

  • 3
    Relevant BBC article
    – user35069
    Aug 16, 2023 at 17:05

1 Answer 1


My understanding is that the investigation in to alleged spying is on going and yet to be concluded, and they have only been charged with a section 4 Identity Documents Act 2010 offence: Possession of false identity documents etc with improper intention.

The maximum sentence is at s.4(4):

(4)A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable, on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or a fine (or both).

If they are ultimately charged with assisting a foreign intelligence service under the Official Secrets Act, the maximum penalty is 14 years.

There's also the possibility of being deported at the end of (and occasionally instead of, or completing in their home country) any sentence under section 3(5), Immigration Act 1971:

(5)A person who is not a British citizen is liable to deportation from the United Kingdom if—

  • (a)the Secretary of State deems his deportation to be conducive to the public good; or

  • (b)another person to whose family he belongs is or has been ordered to be deported.

[(3)(5)(b) might, for example, be applicable if only one of the married couple was convicted]

What the potential sentence is, if any, for alleged spying will only be known if/when charges are brought.

  • 1
    Your second link describes the National Security Act 2023 which only came into effect this July, while the defendants were arrested back in February. Aug 19, 2023 at 2:43
  • As to the National Security Act 2023 (if it applied), you may have overlooked Section 1, "Obtaining or disclosing protected information", which is punishable by life imprisonment. Previous legislation probably had a similar provision. Aug 19, 2023 at 2:46
  • 2
    @NateEldredge That addition was made by someone else (who probably should've know better) and TBH I ignored it; so good spot. I answered according to the known facts, deliberately avoiding the allegations of spying until further, accurate information is available.
    – user35069
    Aug 19, 2023 at 8:31

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