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Cocaine soldiers should keep their jobs, says expert

PUBLISHED: 17:21 29 August 2008 | UPDATED: 15:21 07 September 2010

400269 03: Gunners from the Kings Troop, Royal Horse Artillery line up for the firing of a 41 gun salute to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Queens accession to the British throne February 6, 2002 at Hyde Park in London, England. The Royal Horse Artillery are the official Royal Saluting Battalion, comprising of 160 soldiers and 100 horses. (Photo by Sion Touhig/Getty Images)

400269 03: Gunners from the Kings Troop, Royal Horse Artillery line up for the firing of a 41 gun salute to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Queens accession to the British throne February 6, 2002 at Hyde Park in London, England. The Royal Horse Artillery are the official Royal Saluting Battalion, comprising of 160 soldiers and 100 horses. (Photo by Sion Touhig/Getty Images)

A LEADING expert in military drug use has attacked the Army s decision to dismiss five members of the King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery for taking cocaine. Three men and two women from the elite unit based at St John s Wood Barracks, whose duties includ

A LEADING expert in military drug use has attacked the Army's decision to dismiss five members of the King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery for taking cocaine.

Three men and two women from the elite unit based at St John's Wood Barracks, whose duties include guarding the Queen, were discharged last week after failing a whole-regiment drugs test.

But Professor Sheila Bird, a senior scientist with the Medical Research Council, said the army could have done more to "rescue" the situation.

Speaking exclusively to the Wood&Vale, Prof Bird, who published an influential report last year on the large increase in drug use among soldiers, said: "The Army has a drug intervention programme and has the discretion to put people on that programme.

"But at the moment that discretion is limited to non-Class A drugs, so it wouldn't apply to cocaine and ecstasy.

"I would like to think the MoD would extend their policy so that the commanding officers can exercise this discretion for the taking of Class A drugs like ecstasy, a low harm drug, and cocaine.

"Cocaine is a harmful drug but new evidence suggests that soldiers' use of it is on sporadic off days and the weekend.

"Therefore we should rescue that situation by other means than dismissal of soldiers that have served their country well."

A spokesman for the King's Troop confirmed that the five soldiers, two of whom have served in Iraq, had been caught out by a sudden controlled drugs test.

He said: "Five troops have been found guilty of taking a Class A drug.

"The appropriate internal action was taken against all five soldiers.

"Drugs and army life are incompatible so it's likely that they will be discharged from service."

The drug scandal comes just days after the revelation eight members of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers tested positive for cannabis and cocaine in July.

Since 2003 the use of cocaine in the Army has seen a four-fold growth, according to Prof Bird's report published last year in the Royal United Services Institute Journal (RUSI).

The top scientist said the rise could be the linked to the pressures of troops having to repeatedly carry out dangerous operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But Michael Codner, director of military sciences at RUSI, said that due to the ceremonial nature of their role, drug taking among the Royal Horse Artillery could not be put down to stresses of combat.

He said: "People who are guarding the Queen are taking drugs because their social life is influenced by civilian society.

"The military have a quite a lively social life when they're off duty and on top of that they're living in central London.


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