The family of a Royal Navy petty officer from Northern Ireland jailed for trying to pass Britain's nuclear submarine secrets to men he thought were Russian spies have struggled to cope with the stress of the case, it has been claimed.
Co Tyrone man Edward Devenney (30) was told yesterday he had betrayed his country and his colleagues.
Mr Justice Saunders, sentencing him to eight years at the Old Bailey, said Devenney knew what he was doing when he met the two men in London in January.
He added: “He did supply details of movements and operations carried out and to be carried out by nuclear submarines.
“I am satisfied that in the wrong hands it 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.”
Long-time family friend Patsy Kelly said these have been difficult months for the Strabane family, who were present when the judge passed sentence.
But, he said, they have drawn strength from each other and from their faith.
“Edward's family have been under terrible stress, as you would imagine, and it being so close to Christmas doesn't make it any easier,” he said.
“They are quiet people who keep to themselves and the amount of attention this has brought on them hasn't been easy for them. Having to spend Christmas here while Edward (right) is in jail is something I would say they never in their wildest dreams would have expected — any parent would feel for them.
“The last time I spoke to his mother, Elizabeth, she told me he is coping well with prison, but she is at a loss as to why her son is there at all.”
Disillusioned Devenney thought he had been treated badly by the Royal Navy because he had been passed over for promotion. He had also suffered as the result of a rape allegation of which he was later cleared.
But by January, when he met the men in London, Devenney was a “controlled and rational man”.
He admitted collecting information for a purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the State between November 18 last year and March 7 this year.
“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.” Edward Devenney