Submariners punished for drunken misconduct

  • 15 February 2013
  • From the section UK Politics
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HMS Astute

How serious is the problem of drunkenness and indiscipline within the Royal Navy's submarine service?

Figures obtained by the BBC show that there have been more than 300 disciplinary incidents in the past three years on the navy's 13 submarines, including 42 cases of misconduct or unfitness through alcohol or drugs.

The list of disciplinary offences, provided following a freedom of information request, itemises 13 instances of misconduct or unfitness due to alcohol or drugs on the four Trident submarines, which carry nuclear weapons as the nation's nuclear deterrent.

It also details eight drink or drug related incidents on HMS Astute, the submarine on which a junior rating shot dead an officer in April 2011 after binge drinking while on shore leave. All eight cases occurred after this shooting.

An inquest last month into the death of Lt Cdr Ian Molyneux focused attention on what was described as a culture of excessive drinking among the submarine's personnel.

The inquest was told that Able Seaman Ryan Donovan had drunk more than 20 pints of cider and lager over two days before the attack, in which he also shot and injured another officer while the submarine was docked in Southampton.

Police investigating the murder were so alarmed about heavy drinking by the crew while ashore that the senior officer wrote to Hampshire's Chief Constable to highlight the issue and the warning was passed to military authorities.

The coroner Keith Wiseman said a culture of drinking to excess had to stop, and recommended that a system of random alcohol testing for crew should be introduced.

The Royal Navy has tightened its rules on alcohol consumption before duty. "We take all disciplinary offences seriously," a navy spokesman said.

"Although alcohol is available on board Royal Navy ships and submarines, its consumption is extremely limited and the RN's promotion of healthy living, coupled with the professionalism of modern sailors, means that fewer sailors drink at sea than ever before," he added.

"This is particularly true of the submarine service due to the demands of operating the boat and the restrictions of working a continuous six-hour watch routine."

The most common form of misconduct within the submarine service is going absent without leave, which accounts for about half the incidents.

Alcohol and drug related misbehaviour is the next most frequent issue. According to the Ministry of Defence, these cases mainly involve alcohol rather than drugs.

Those involved are generally punished by a mixture of fines, restriction of privileges and stopping of shore leave.

The navy provided the BBC with details of 311 disciplinary incidents since January 2010 involving service personnel serving on submarines. This covers the 13 submarines in the service, but it can be difficult to contrast the disciplinary records of the various vessels without knowing their schedules and extent of times at sea.

The four Trident submarines are the V-class ones, Vanguard, Victorious, Vigilant and Vengeance.

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