Page last updated at 08:55 GMT, Thursday, 28 August 2008 09:55 UK

Sailors test positive for cocaine

HMS Liverpool
HMS Liverpool has been involved in anti-drug smuggling operations

Eighteen sailors on a Royal Navy warship have tested positive for cocaine, the MoD has said.

They were caught during routine testing onboard HMS Liverpool, deployed in the South Atlantic. The ship has been involved in combating drug smuggling.

"Internal action" is being taken against the sailors in what is believed to be the biggest drug bust in the Navy's history.

It comes after five soldiers were dismissed after failing a drugs test.

HMS Liverpool is a Type 42 destroyer has 240 crew onboard and regularly patrols the Falkland Islands.

'Unprecedented incident'

An MoD spokeswoman said the test had been carried out after the crew had a "run ashore" on a break in Brazil.

She said: "The Royal Navy does not tolerate misuse of drugs by its personnel and internal action is under way against all 18 individuals.

"Notwithstanding the numbers involved in this single unprecedented incident which is being treated very seriously, it has not affected the ship's ability to do its job."

Positive test rates in the Navy last year averaged less than 0.4%, compared with over 7% in civilian workplaces
MoD spokeswoman
But she said the incident must be placed in context - drug misuse is almost 20 times more common in civilian workplaces than in the Navy.

"Positive test rates in the Navy last year averaged less than 0.4%, compared with over 7% in civilian workplaces," she said.

"We are not complacent though and our compulsory drug tests will continue to expose those few that let the rest down."

The MoD conducts Europe's largest compulsory drug testing programme, she added.

Earlier this week, it emerged five soldiers from the King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery, had been dismissed after failing a drugs test.

And on Sunday it emerged eight soldiers from the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers had tested positive for illegal drugs in July.




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