A traitor to the British State escapes prison with the aid of peace activists who help smuggle him across Europe. George Blake, former MI6 intelligence officer, had been imprisoned for 42 years on charges of espionage – for the Soviet Union. His sentence was considered extraordinarily lengthy (at the time the longest sentence handed down for a non-murder charge since 1887), and it sparked uproar.
Five years into his sentence Blake escaped and ended up in Moscow (via East Germany) where he lived until his death in 2020, aged 98. The breakout – considered to be a coup for the Soviet Union, was actually organised by inmates of the prison: who believed George had been a victim of a politically motivated injustice system.
This book tells the story of the trial of Blake’s jumpers: the peace activists who helped him escape, Michael Randle and Pat Pottle.
- “The Old Bailey trial of the two peace activists, Michael Randle and Pat Pottle, for helping free the spy George Blake back in the 1960s ended with them being acquitted on all charges. It was an astonishing and entirely unexpected result and Michael Randle has now given us a full account of what happened. He argues convincingly that the result was not, as supporters of the government at the time put it, the work of a “perverse” jury but should more correctly be seen as a rebel verdict. It was a rare example of ordinary people accepting the value of moral arguments and serves as a reminder that on issues of common justice political establishments do not always get it their own way. Rebel Verdict will be of great interest to anyone in the legal profession as well as to new generations of antiwar and environmental campaigners, especially the increasing number of people prepared to take nonviolent direct action on climate issues. Quite apart from anything else, it is also a rattling good read.”
– Paul Rogers, Emeritus Professor of Peace Studies
- “It takes real courage to go against the whole political and military establishment, mainstream media, and most ordinary citizens. Michael Randle and his friends risked everything in helping George Blake to escape from prison. They challenged the law and lived many years in fear, but were proven right in a court! Like some other activists – Plowshares and climate justice protesters – they managed to convince a British jury that the law and the judge were wrong. I hope this book and its powerful story will inspire more people to follow in their footsteps; to resist injustice and stand up for the value of all human life.”
– Stellan Vinthagen
- “Michael Randle helped us to smuggle literature into occupied Czechoslovakia in the early 1970s. He risked imprisonment by driving the first van across the Iron Curtain. Only about 20 years later did I discover that he had built the same secret compartments in an earlier van with which he smuggled George Blake out of the UK to East Germany. I agreed to be his character witness in the court because I admired his courage, integrity and strength of convictions. I was happy to support him even though at that time I had to defend myself against accusations that I have worked for the Communist Secret Service and any, even indirect association with a Soviet spy made my position more difficult. However, I understood Michael’s fight for peace and human rights. His credo – plague on both houses. Neither US nor Soviet missiles. Neither gulags nor Guantanamo.”
– Jan Kavan
- “Rebel Verdict is a brilliant, long-awaited account of one of the most dramatic cases ever heard by an Old Bailey jury. Michael Randle’s courage and life-long commitment to the causes of peace and justice, shared by his co-defendant Pat Pottle, is reflected in this truly astonishing story. It ends, victoriously, by the jury’s unanimous acquittal even though the two defendants admitted breaking the law with which they had been charged – helping George Blake, the notorious spy, escape from prsion. The jury’s decision was described by some commentators as “perverse”. Others said the jury had simply “smelled oppression”. ”
– Richard Norton-Taylor, award-winning journalist and writer on security and defense