A Royal Navy submariner who betrayed his country and colleagues by trying to pass secrets to men he believed were Russian spies has been jailed for eight years.
The Old Bailey heard how Petty Officer Edward Devenney, 30, called the Russian Embassy after a 12-hour drinking binge because he was angry at not being promoted.
He then met two agents calling themselves Dimitri and Vladimir at the British Museum, unaware that they were in fact MI5, and tried to pass on secret encryption codes and details on the movements of nuclear submarines.
Sentencing him today Mr Justice Saunders said: “I am satisfied that in the wrong hands (the information) was capable of affecting the operational effectiveness of nuclear submarines. This is a very serious case. The defendant was prepared to betray his country and his colleagues.”
Outside court, Devenney’s solicitor Richard Cannon read a statement from him: “I am deeply sorry for the hurt and shame that I have brought on my family and loved ones.
”Prior to these events I gave the Royal Navy 11 and a half years of service and I deeply regret my actions and the effect they have had on the Submarine Service and colleagues.“
The court was told that the communications engineer’s behaviour collapsed after he faced a rape allegation, reportedly of a woman with learning difficulties, of which he was later cleared.
He began drinking heavily and suffered bouts of depression. His conduct and absences without leave led to a threat of discharge in January. But he was “a controlled and rational man” when he met the MI5 officers that month.
The court heard he had managed to get into a locked safe without authorisation on board HMS Vigilant and take three photographs of part of a secret code for encrypted information.
The photographs held “the essential piece of the jigsaw” to encrypted material which, if compromised, would remove the ability of the submarine to “be deployed covertly and without detection”.
He also offered to give the spies details of the movements of Vigilant as well as information on another nuclear submarine and a previous secret mission by HMS Trafalgar.
Prosecutor Mark Dennis said: “The potential damage could have been considerable and could have harmed the safety and security of the United Kingdom.”
Devenney pleaded guilty to amassing information in breach of the Official Secrets Act between last November and this March, and misconduct in a public office.
Mari Reid, of the CPS counter-terrorism division, said: “This was a classic story of betrayal.
”Edward Devenney was employed by the Royal Navy to protect this country from potential threats to our security. Instead, he pursued a course of conduct likely to put his country at risk.
“We rely on the men and women of our armed forces to keep us safe. It is hard to imagine a greater breach of that role than Devenney's actions.”