Back in the early 1960s, Michael and fellow activist Pat spent a year in jail for a direct action against nuclear weapons. In Wormwood Scrubs prison in London, they met the double agent, George Blake, who was serving a long sentence for espionage. Four years later, they, together with Anne and a former inmate, Séan Bourke, concocted an escape plan for Blake, successfully freed him from jail and smuggled him to East Germany.
The primary motive was most decidedly not sympathy for the Soviet Union – Michael had been vigorously opposed to Soviet actions in Eastern Europe, especially the suppression of the 1956 Hungarian uprising. Rather, the motive arose from Blake’s own position in jail, facing what was essentially a life sentence.
After his original arrest, Blake cooperated with the authorities and his team had anticipated a long but not excessive sentence. In the event, he was found guilty on three charges and given 12 years for each. The usual practice would have been for this to run concurrently but the judge made the sentences consecutive, hence the extraordinary 42-year term.