Naval murder leads to alcohol law change

Lieutenant Commander Ian Molyneux with his wife Gillian
Lieutenant Commander Ian Molyneux with his wife Gillian

THE horrific murder of a Wigan father-of-four on board a submarine has led to changes in the way the Royal Navy handles the use of alcohol on its vessels.

Lt Cdr Ian Molyneux died after being shot by a drunk colleague on the nuclear submarine HMS Astute, which was docked in Southampton in April 2011.

Able Seaman Ryan Donovan from Dartford in Kent, was seen “extremely intoxicated” during the night before his shift and was in charge of a rifle from noon.

He was jailed for life at Winchester Crown Court in 2011 and told he must serve at least 25 years.

The government has now revealed that excessive drinking in the Navy is being addressed more than three years after the tragedy.

Coroner Keith Wiseman wrote to the Ministry of Defence after the inquest of Lt Cdr Molyneux in January 2013. The ministry responded in a letter, which has been seen by the BBC, and said new practices had moderated alcohol consumption.

Mr Wiseman raised concern about the “culture of excessive drinking” in the Navy following Mr Molyneux’s death.

During the shooting spree, Donovan killed Lt Cdr Molyneux, 36, whose wife Gill and four children live in Shevington, and injured two others.

The inquest in January last year heard the killer had 139mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood in his body. The Navy prohibits no more than 35mg per 100ml when on safety-critical duty, the same as the UK drink-drive limit. For personnel handling weapons the limit is 9mg per 100ml.

Mr Wiseman, Southampton’s former coroner, recommended random alcohol testing and that no alcohol should be consumed within 24 hours of starting duty, especially when handling weapons.

The MoD said new Navy rules, under the Armed Forces Act 2011, prohibited the consumption of more than five units of alcohol 24 hours before duty and no alcohol was to be consumed in the 10 hours before duty. Blanket or random tests cannot be done for legal reasons, according to the Navy, but devices are used if someone is suspected of being under the influence of alcohol.

There have been several prosecutions since this was introduced and the devices were having a “desired beneficial effect on culture and attitude to moderating alcohol consumption”.

Mrs Molyneux declined to comment because of ongoing litigation. Her husband’s name was added to Wigan’s cenotaph last month after a campaign by the family.