Several police forces have begun an initiative of naming people charged with drink driving, and even publishing their addresses. Whilst there will undoubtedly be people who say that this is a good development and those who choose to break the law should be named and shamed. However, this ignores a few key points that make this recent development very worrying indeed.
Firstly, these are not people who have been to Court, found to be guilty beyond all reasonable doubt and subsequently convicted of drink driving, they have only been accused. Surely the police should acknowledge that a person is innocent until proven guilty and be slightly less trigger happy when posting people’s personal details.
Imagine a case in which someone is incorrectly accused (something that happens more regularly than people may think) and they have their details broadcast in relation to an offence which they have not committed. Would it not make far more sense for the police to wait until someone has actually been convicted before making the charge public? The police would then have confirmation that the accused person is guilty of the offence and can tweet, safe in the knowledge that they are not slinging mud at an innocent person.
It is also questionable as to why the police feel it is necessary to publish address details when broadcasting this information to the world. It seems obvious that this in no way has any relevance to the offence and simply increases the likelihood that someone could be targeted by people within the local community, again without any confirmation of guilt. Will the police be as quick to post a tweet if one of these people is found not guilty? The police seem determined to mete out their own justice on those charged with drink driving, ignoring the fact that this is the entire purpose of the Court system, to punish those who break the law.
Many readers will no doubt at this point think that I am labouring on the point that these people have yet to be convicted and indeed I am. It is a key principle of law that a person is not guilty simply because they are accused of committing an offence, it has to be proven beyond reasonable doubt. This is to protect people from the consequences that arise from false allegations, even those made in good faith by the police.
Finally, it seems odd that this scheme is solely being utilised to name and shame drink drivers. If this is a good idea, and the police certainly seem to be under the impression that it is, they why limit it to one very specific type of offence? Of course the excuse being put forward is that it is a useful tool in changing people’s perception of drink driving, but I cannot believe that this is really the best and most effective way to put the message across. Would it not be more beneficial to begin including a section within the driving test where learner drivers are shown some of the accidents that have been caused by someone drink driving, as currently happens on the drink drive awareness course? However if this method is indeed effective at convincing people not to commit an offence, then surely it should be utilised across the board and not for one specific offence.
By Alex Garner, paralegal in the motoring offences team