A disillusioned Royal Navy submariner betrayed his country by trying to pass nuclear sub secrets to Russian agents because he wanted to “hurt” the Navy.
Petty Officer Edward Devenney was jailed for eight years yesterday for breaching the official secrets act after being caught in an elaborate MI5 sting operation.
He spent three months in contact with men who he thought were two Russian spies but were actually British agents, the Old Bailey heard.
He continued with his plan, done in revenge for not being promoted, despite having suspicions and even told one: “Your accent sounds remarkably fake, like British intelligence”.
A communications engineer, he offered highly sensitive details of the movements of nuclear submarines and of a previous secret operation.
He also photographed top secret code information that could have caused “substantial damage to the security of the UK”.
The case last night also raised questions over Royal Navy security because Devenney had been able to access the code material from a locked safe.
He was also allowed to remain in his sensitive post despite having problems with drink and depression after being charged with rape, for which he was later acquitted, and had been warned he would be sacked after showing signs of erratic behaviour such as going absent without leave.
Passing sentence, Mr Justice Saunders said: “This is a very serious case. The defendant was prepared to betray his country and his colleagues.”
Devenney, 30, from County Tyrone, had been a “blue-eyed boy” with a promising future in the Royal Navy, which he had served loyally for more than ten years, the court heard.
Lord Carlile QC, defending, said his career went “awry” in 2010 after he was charged with alleged rape, for which he was acquitted.
He began drinking excessively and became depressed and the following year asked to be removed from a promotion training course for 12 months.
However, he later decided he had been treated badly by the Navy and wanted to “hurt” them, Mark Dennis, prosecuting, said.
In November last year he began calling the Russian embassy in London, including 11 calls on one day shortly after a 12 hour binge drinking session.
At the time he was stationed on the nuclear submarine HMS Vigilant, which was in Plymouth undergoing a refit.
The following month he was contacted by a man called “Dima” who claimed to be from the Russian embassy.
A week later another man called Vladimir called claiming to be a colleague of Dima.
A series of phone calls and text messages were exchanged in which Devenney said he was “****** off” with the Royal Navy and that they could “help each other”.
In January, it was arranged he would meet Vladimir at the British Museum in London and the pair then met Dima in a nearby hotel room.
During the secretly filmed meeting, Devenney offered details of a previous secret operation by HMS Trafalgar, a hunter killer submarine, and various movement dates of two nuclear submarines.
Such advance notice could allow an enemy state time to set up equipment to record the sub’s unique signature information which would have meant it could have been tracked anywhere in the world, the court heard.
Two days after first contacting the Russian embassy, Devenney also managed to get into a locked safe on board HMS Vigilant and take three photographs of part of a secret code for encrypted information.
The pictures were placed on his laptop but he never passed them on or even mentioned them during his later meeting with the “Russians”.
Devenney pleaded guilty to breaching the Official Secrets Act by gathering classified information and misconduct by meeting the supposed spies.
The judge said he was passing a deterrent sentence because “those who serve their country loyally must know that those who don’t will receive proper punishment.”
By Tom Whitehead, Security Editor
5:15PM GMT 12 Dec 2012
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