Royal Navy submariner admits collecting secrets that could be useful to an enemy

Edward Devenney covers himself up as he arrives at a previous court hearing. Picture: PA
Edward Devenney covers himself up as he arrives at a previous court hearing. Picture: PA
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A Royal Navy nuclear submariner has admitted attempting to give military secrets to the Russians.

Petty Officer Edward Devenney, 30, served onboard HMS Trafalgar, a hunter killer submarine, and was due to begin serving on HMS Vigilant, a submarine which carries Trident nuclear missiles when he tried to set up a covert contact with Russian spies.

He offered them details of the sailings and movements of two nuclear submarines, a recent operation involving HMS Trafalgar and details of codebreaking Crypto material between ships and naval command.

But unknown to Devenney who has been in the Royal Navy for 11 and a half years he had been talking to British agents posing as their Russian counterparts.

Yesterday he pleaded guilty to breaching the Official Secrets Act and faces a maximum sentence of 14 years behind bars.

He admitted he collected “secret official codes or passwords or any sketch, plan, model, article or note or other documents or information namely Crypto material” between November 2011 and March 2012.

The navy officer, from Northern Ireland, also admitted misconduct in public office by “wilfully misconducts yourself in attempting to set up and continue a covert relationship with a foreign power with the intention of harming the Royal navy and thereby acting to the detriment of the state and public interest.”

However he denied one count of breaching the Official Secrets Act when communicating information on January 28 this year which could be deemed to be useful to an enemy of the state.

Devenney was arrested by officers at the naval base in Plymouth in March of this year.

He had enjoyed a promising career in the Navy, with the service sponsoring him to take time away from sea to study for a degree in electronic engineering.

He had also passed exams giving him a place on a course to become a commissioned navy officer – but budget cuts are understood to have led to that career move being scrapped.

He is alleged to have been aggrieved at being “binned” and wanted to pass on communications and electronic warfare systems secrets because “he wanted to hurt the navy.”

He first contacted the ‘enemy’ embassy in November last year, offering highly sensitive information related to his work.

The secret services then set up a sting operation in January by sending officers posing as agents for the unnamed country to meet him.

Devenney is said to have offered them information on nuclear submarines, including the operation of electronic warfare systems and periscopes, which could have ‘hurt’ the navy.

It is also alleged that he gathered details of ‘crypto material’ - programmes used to encrypt secret information.

Today prosecutor Mark Dennis QC said the offence of communicating information to the enemy related to “the information he gave during a conversation with two men who he believed were Russian secret service.”

Of the information Devenney disclosed he added: “The first relates to an operation that was undertaken by HMS Trafalgar.

“Second it relates to the dates and or comings and goings of two nuclear submarines during the course of this year.”

He said before sentencing, the prosecution and defence lawyers had to agree upon the “potential damage” the disclosures might have caused to the UK’s national security.

He added: “Although I made reference to the Trafalgar operation and movements of submarines, there is also a third matter, that is crypto material.

“The details of that device, the details of the Trafalgar operation and details of just how one of the sailing dates is still top secret and therefore should not be mentioned in open court.”

His barrister Lord Carlile QC said his client’s guilty pleas meant there would “be no trial and therefore national security that might have been ventilated will not have to be ventilated before a jury.

“These cases are very unusual and in decades of practice I never done one before nor have those that instruct me.

“We have proceeded with great care and the defendant pleaded at the first opportunity because he has been restrained and I take full responsibility for that.”

Devenney was remanded into custody and is to be sentenced on December 12.