A senior civil servant is facing jail after pleading guilty Tuesday to breaching the Official Secrets Act by leaving top secret intelligence documents on a commuter train.
The highly sensitive files "had the potential to damage national security and U.K. international relations," Westminster Magistrates Court heard.
Richard Jackson, a Cabinet Office official, admitted failing to take due care of the documents, which he left on a train from Waterloo station on his way home to Yateley, Hampshire, in June.
The documents were found inside an envelope by a passenger who handed them over to the BBC Security Correspondent, Frank Gardner. He then turned them in to police.
The court heard that one of the documents was marked “top secret,” while the other had a mid-range classification. It is believed that the most secret document was a report about the threat posed by Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The other is thought to be a highly critical British assessment of the Iraqi security forces.
Jackson, 37, is charged under the least serious "safeguarding of information" section of the Act, but still faces a maximum prison sentence of three months, or a fine.
The court heard that Jackson was "physically sick" when he discovered he had lost the files, which he had taken out of the office inadvertantly. But he did not report the loss of the files until the following day, as his immediate bosses were abroad.
Prosecutor Deborah Walsh said: "This delay in reporting delayed any action to recover the files."