A Scottish soldier who got drunk before falling from a Polish hotel balcony may have died because alcohol restrictions on military bases are too strict, an inquest heard.
Corporal Ryan Lovatt, 25, died from his injuries in August 2019 while on a break from army duties in Warsaw.
He was serving with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME), and had been deployed for diplomatic services with the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.
An inquest heard that Corporal Ryan Lovatt, pictured, got drunk before falling from a Polish hotel balcony
He had been deployed to Eastern Europe as part of Operation Cabrit, a codename for the UK’s contribution to NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence.
Cpl Lovatt was one of around 150 British soldiers deployed to Poland, where they form of a part of the US-led battlegroup in order to show ‘transatlantic strength’ against Russia.
On a break, the inquest heard Cpl Lovatt was drinking heavily on the evening of 31 July 2019 and early hours of 1 August and was pepper-sprayed by a bouncer on leaving a club.
Senior Coroner David Salter said: ‘There were two incidents outside clubs where some members of the group were pepper-sprayed by door staff but, on the evidence I heard, this appears to be unprovoked and heavy-handed.
Cpl Lovatt was helped to his room at the City Comfort Hotel in Warsaw (general view pictured) the night of his death
‘Cpl Lovatt was pepper-sprayed during the second incident and returned to the hotel in a taxi with a colleague who took him to his room.’
He was put to bed by a fellow soldier in his room at the City Comfort Hotel, Warsaw, but he later fell accidentally and unwitnessed from the balcony of his room to his death.
There was no evidence this was intentional or any suspicious circumstances.
The inquest heard there was a ‘two can rule’ on alcohol during the deployment which was described as ‘fairly restrictive’.
The facilities at the camp also ‘left a lot to be desired and morale was not high’, Oxford Coroner’s Court was told.
The Coroner issued the Ministry of Defence a report to prevent future deaths suggesting the military policy on alcohol was too strict which led to binge drinking when soldiers were off-duty.
Mr Salter said: ‘The deployment appears to sit between an operational tour and being normalised.
‘The result of this appears to be a systemic problem with regard to understanding the policy and complying with it.
‘It is possible that a restrictive alcohol policy and poor conditions in the base might lead to excessive/binge drinking when on a trip such as this one.
‘Rather than tightening the policy, it is possible that less restrictive conditions at the base is part of the answer.
‘Whichever view is taken of the above, whether it is a two can rule, four can rule or more, an important safeguard is the requirement for a soldier, normally an NCO, to be nominated as a shark watch and to remain sober and vigilant.
The facilities at the camp ‘left a lot to be desired and morale was not high’, Oxford Coroner’s Court (general view pictured) was told
‘It is a well known and common-sense concept.
‘It is not clear to me if there is a formalised policy. I anticipate the system may operate differently depending on the personnel and location.
‘In this case, the system did not operate effectively as the person nominated as shark watch did not appear to know that he had been nominated.
‘Others who gave evidence were unclear about the existence or requirements of such a system.
‘In short, my concern is that there is not a realistic, workable or widely understood policy that is capable of being enforced with regard to alcohol on Operation Cabrit and that, furthermore, the role of shark watch is not given greater prominence.’
An MoD spokesperson said: ‘The health and well-being of our personnel is of the utmost importance, which is why commanders offer extensive guidance to help personnel make informed decisions.
‘In addition to the treatment for those struggling with serious alcohol misuse, all three Services are developing holistic programmes as part of an overarching healthy lifestyle strategy.’
Following Cpl Lovatt’s death, his family said in a statement: ‘We’re devastated by the loss of our son Ryan.
‘We never would’ve expected for him to be hurt on a deployment like this.’
Source: Daily Mail UK