Senior British counter-terrorist officer suspended over theft of sensitive documents

Marcus Beale will appear in court next month accused of breaking the Official Secrets Act after thieves broke into an unmarked police car

Tributes left in Manchester after the May 22 suicide bomb attack. Ben Stansall / AFP
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A senior British counter-terrorist policeman has been charged with breaking the Official Secrets Act after sensitive documents were stolen from an unmarked police car.

Marcus Beale – a high-profile officer who was responsible for a series of major British terrorism investigations in recent years – is accused of failing to keep the documents safe, which were kept inside a locked box in the car.

Police refused to say what was stolen, but the theft in May came during a period of heightened tensions and one week before suicide bomber Salman Abedi attacked a pop concert in Manchester leaving 22 people dead.

At the time of the theft, the threat level was assessed as severe, suggesting that an attack from international terrorism was “highly likely” and came two months after an attack outside Britain's parliament that left five dead.

Mr Beale was responsible for the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit which has carried out a series of investigations into Islamic extremism centred around the UK's second largest city of Birmingham. He oversaw a series of successful investigations that foiled attacks aimed at killing hundreds of people.

They included successful 2013 prosecutions of members of a group who plotted to bomb a far-right wing rally and spark a race war, and of a cell of potential suicide bombers who wanted to launch an attack to rival the September 11 killings in the US.

Mr Beale, who has been suspended from his force, will appear in court next month over the “alleged failure to safeguard sensitive documents after items were stolen from an unmarked police car in May,” said a police spokesman in a statement.