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4 SOLDIERS FAIL DRUG TEST.

Byline: ANDREW BUSHE

FOUR members of the Defence Forces have tested positive for illegal drugs.

So far, 1,402 members from all ranks in the forces have been checked by the random testing, introduced in November 2002.

Giving the new figures, Defence Minister Michael Smith said the target of testing 10 per cent of the Defence Forces had been achieved.

The tests are similar to those used for athletes and cover a range of illegal drugs including cannabis, cocaine, amphetamines and heroin.

No details of who was caught, rank or the drug taken have been divulged but the Minister said anyone with a confirmed positive test was discharged or retired. The tests were introduced after two years of negotiations involving Force's representative associations, the Attorney General, and the Judge Advocate General.

Mr Smith said: "The implications of drug abuse in an organisation where personnel have access to firearms are too obvious to require elaboration.

"While there have been relatively few drug related problems in the Defence Forces, it is recognised that the Defence Forces, as a component of the wider community, mirror the community at large." The Minister said the primary objective of the testing was deterrence, adding: "A randomly selected member of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) may be required at any time to provide a urine sample which will be tested.

"A member of the PDF who refuses to provide a urine sample or who provides a urine sample which tests positive shall be liable to retirement, discharge or relinquishment of commission or withdrawal of cadetship as appropriate.

The checks do not involve tests for alcohol as it was decided there were "very strong existing procedures" involving service personnel drinking or being drunk on duty" in place.

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REPORT: Minister Smith
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Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Feb 8, 2004
Words:294
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