In the run-up to Christmas all policing regions are operating a far firmer regime around arresting drink drivers as part of their Christmas campaigns.
Guidance has been given by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) that drink drivers can be named in the media upon being charged.
It’s important to understand the legal process for drink driving.
An arrest would typically be made at the road side following a non-evidential breath test.The arrestee would then be taken to a police station to give a further sample – either breath, blood or urine. Following the outcome of that evidential test, the individual could then be charged with a drink driving offence.
The offence would then go to court for trial where guilt or innocence would be determined.
Many policing areas are naming people following charge, but before court. The naming involves releasing the names to the press and often tweeting the names on their own twitter feeds.
Those forces are following a strategy of naming as deterrent to other drink drivers.
The court system can run slowly and in many areas fast-track courts have been set-up for low level traffic offences. These courts would not cover drink drive offences and are currently not in use in North Yorkshire.
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There have been a number of high profile celebrity cases where individuals have been named in the press, for the case to not follow through to a conviction.
Nick Freeman, aka Mr Loophole, has represented some of the country’s best-known celebrities and said the decision went against the fundamental presumption of innocent until proven guilty.
Speaking to Harrogate-News, Mr Freeman said:
Naming these people before there is a guilty verdict is at best misguided; at worst it is totally immoral.
Naming and shaming before conviction, unless it is in the public interest to do, is ridiculous and is potentially designed to encourage vigilante action.
I have represented hundreds of clients who have been acquitted for a whole variety of different reasons. This means they have been found not guilty. They leave court without a stain on their character.
If any person has been named and shamed and is ultimately acquitted they may have a substantial claim for damages against the police.
I cannot imagine that the releasing of these names is a deterrent for anybody, so the decision to do so astounds me. It is simply not in the public interest.
The presumption of being innocent until proven guilty is one of the fundamental tenets of the legal system. It is imperative that this presumption remains intact. It was only yesterday that we learned that no charges were to be preferred against comedian Jim Davidson.
The police are acting beyond their remit. Their function is to prevent and detect crime by the gathering and collating of evidence in an impartial manner, which is then presented to the Crown Prosecution Service who ultimately decide if there is sufficient evidence to prosecute.
Whilst I applaud the police efforts in endeavouring to raise the profile of drink driving would it not be more sensible to achieve this goal by publishing the personal details of all those defendants who have been convicted.