Gosport sailor freed from prison over gun drama on ship

WEAPON DRAMA HMS Edinburgh returning to Portsmouth after her final deployment. Picture: Sarah Standing (131470-7240)
WEAPON DRAMA HMS Edinburgh returning to Portsmouth after her final deployment. Picture: Sarah Standing (131470-7240)
The new commanding officer of HMS Collingwood, Captain Rob Vitali. Picture: Keith Woodland/MoD

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A ROYAL Navy sailor who pulled a gun on a senior officer during a mental breakdown has been freed from prison.

Leading Seaman Kevin Moffat, 45 – described as the ‘very epitome of steady reliability’ by superiors – took an unloaded SA80 assault rifle into an officer’s cabin on board HMS Edinburgh.

The senior rating, from Gosport, was suffering with a mental disorder triggered by fears he would miss his child’s birth, after he was drafted for a mission to the Falkland Islands.

The 25-year veteran was jailed for three years and dismissed from service after a court martial in Portsmouth, in July.

But three of the country’s most senior judges yesterday freed him when they reduced the term to 14 months.

Lord Justice Pitchford, sitting at London’s Criminal Appeal Court, said the father-of-three was called up at short notice to the Type 42 destroyer bound for the South Atlantic.

As reported in The News, HMS Edinburgh was docked in Lisbon in September 2012 when Moffat was wracked by anxiety that his pregnant wife would give birth without him.

Five years earlier, Moffat had missed the premature birth of another child while serving with the navy.

He was drinking with colleagues in an Irish bar on September 28, 2012, when he became frustrated and said ‘he was going to have to get a gun’ if he was not granted leave, although his shipmates doubted he was being serious.

Moffat, a gunner, then took the assault rifle and rounds from the ship’s weapons hold, although no magazine to load them, and confronted the executive officer in his cabin.

The judge said Moffat held up the weapon in one hand – without pointing it at anyone – and showed the bullets in the other, saying: ‘This is a loaded weapon. You know what that means. I want to talk to you’.

The executive officer convinced Moffat to hand over the gun and the sailor was ‘overcome with tears’, with the whole incident lasting seconds.

A navy medical expert later said Moffat had been suffering an adjustment disorder and his decision-making was impaired.

One of Moffat’s superior officers said in a reference ‘he has been the very epitome of steady reliability, honesty and courage’ and that he had never been known to say a dissenting word about the navy.

Nonetheless, the court martial found the incident was a gross breach of naval discipline and that three years was the minimum Moffat deserved.

But Lord Justice Pitchford, sitting with Mr Justice Wilkie and Mr Justice Patterson, said, despite the unimpeachable sentencing remarks made by Judge Advocate Robert Hill Moffat’s term should be cut.

The court martial may have ‘failed to make significant allowance for the fleeting nature of Moffat’s loss of judgment’ and that his previous experiences and background might have ‘overwhelmed him’.

He concluded: ‘We recognise the judgement was difficult. However, we are clear that, on the special facts of the case, in particular the character and personality of Moffat himself, three years was excessive.’