LONDON, United Kingdom – A Zimbabwe-born soldier enlisted in the British army missed his shift protecting Buckingham Palace after drinking too much rum and falling asleep on the floor, a court martial heard.
Farai Mabasa, a Lance Sergeant in one of the most senior infantry regiments in the British Army, the Grenadier Guards, had been due to turn up on duty at 2AM, but made the “very bad decision” to have a drink with a colleague in his barracks.
The soldier he was meant to be relieving on the Queen’s Guard shift repeatedly rang the 36-year-old to try to find him, but he had fallen asleep and missed the entire night.
Eventually, L/Sgt Mabasa, of the Nijmegen Company Grenadier Guards, was found passed out on the floor at nearby Wellington Barracks.
When he was ordered to return to the palace later that morning, he arrived smelling of alcohol, the court martial was told.
The Lance Sergeant initially pleaded guilty to two charges of unfitness through alcohol and failure to attend for duty and was demoted in rank and sentenced to seven days’ detention.
However, this punishment was quashed on a technicality at an appeal hearing at Bulford Military Court, Wilts.
The father of two, who arrived from Zimbabwe aged 14 in 2000, was instead fined 14 days’ pay – approximately £1,365.
The court heard that the incident took place on August 12 this year, while the late Queen Elizabeth was on her summer holiday in Balmoral.
Prosecuting, Flight Lieutenant Charlotte Adams said L/Sgt Mabasa had finished one shift at Buckingham Palace at 10PM and was due to return at 2AM.
She said: “(His colleague) checked on his room and the guardroom but [L/Sgt Mabasa] was not there. He tried calling him every five minutes but he didn’t answer his phone.
“Instead (the colleague) stayed on guard for the remainder of the shift. L/Sgt Mabasa was found asleep on the floor – he had been out drinking.
“He was ordered to report back to Buckingham Palace at 8.30AM, where he stumbled into the guardroom smelling of alcohol. He was deemed unfit for duty and sent back to Wellington Barracks.”
Flt Lt Adams told the appeal hearing that L/Sgt Mabasa’s original sentence was “unlawful” given his rank.
She continued: “The aggravating feature here is that L/Sgt Mabasa is an experienced serviceman and should have known the implications of being under the influence during the course of duty.”
Mitigating, Alex Rynn said L/Sgt Mabasa had been using alcohol as “a crutch”, but since the incident, had started attending Alcoholics Anonymous three times a week and accepted the “destructive influence” it had.
Rynn said: “[L/Sgt Mabasa] is deeply ashamed – he knows he has done wrong and is rightly being punished.
“Due to return to Queen’s Guard at 2AM, he made a bad decision, a very bad decision, to have a drink with a colleague.
“He was drinking rum and fell asleep, that’s why he didn’t answer his phone.”
General Darren Reed, a Judge Advocate, told L/Sgt Mabasa: “We deem this to be serious considering the rank you held at the time.
“Your unfitness for duty is equally serious. We see this as a wilful disregard for your duty – you rendered yourself unable to perform.”
Referring to the initial demotion and week-long detention, he added: “You cannot be detained because of your rank.
“Consequently we quash that sentence, you will be fined 14 days’ pay, approximately £1,365.”
L/Sgt Mabasa will retain his current rank. – Daily Telegraph (UK)