Naming Drink Drivers at point of Charge – as discussed by Lincolnshire Police Ethics Panel.

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Every December, Forces run their Drink Drive campaigns to dissuade the increase in those who take a risk around Christmas and hopefully keep us all a little bit safer on our roads. Roads policing is particularly challenging for rural Forces and Lincolnshire Police continue to address this challenge as best they can. Faced with an increasing number of Drink Drive (or Drug Drive) offenders, in 2016 Lincolnshire Police decided to name those charged during their campaign. They did so again in 2017 and this garnered quite a lot of attention, particularly from local press and social media. Lincolnshire Police Ethics Panel invited Superintendent Phil Vickers to present to us the reasoning behind the move to name those charged and to join us in an open debate.

Superintendent Vickers explained to the Panel that the Force had been faced with an increasing offender cohort and a decrease in public interest/press uptake of the annual campaign. Naming people at point of charge had appeared to reinvigorate both public and press interest in 2016 and so the same approach had been adopted in 2017. He was very clear that there is a difference between naming those charged with offences (a fact) and naming them as drink drivers (which can only be confirmed on conviction). This is not, he stated, a ‘name and shame’ approach. It was pointed out that despite this being the intention, the public were referring to it as naming and shaming and there seemed to be significant numbers and who looked upon charge as an indication of guilt. There was certainly a disparity between the Force’s intention and the public’s appetite for shaming people.

Superintendent Vickers told us of a survey undertaken by Staffordshire Police which indicated that over 60% of people felt that the prospect of being named in the media would make them think harder before choosing to drink drive. With only two years of actual data to look at, it was agreed that this and other quantitative data was still elusive. Even so, with prevention the aim, a 60% reduction would be very impressive, albeit almost impossible to prove. Finally Superintendent Vickers explained that naming on charge is encouraged within the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s Authorised Professional Pratice, for the purpose of public reassurance, due to Lincolnshire’s high levels of KSI’s (Killed or Seriously Injured) on the roads.

The Panel was appreciative of Superintendent Vickers’ full and informative presentation and we then began to discuss some of the issues beyond the operational practice for which such a strong case was made. Concerns were expressed about the mental health and vulnerability of those named and we were informed that each person leaving custody is routinely provided with information on mental health support and support for addictions. Nothing new and specific was arranged for the people affected by this specific campaign as is was felt the current arrangements were adequate. We asked whether an Equality Impact Assessment (to ensure the policy/procedures do not discriminate against any disadvantaged or vulnerable people) had been carried out – there had not been a specific assessment carried out for this campaign as the assessment used by the Force for the general policy of naming on charge was deemed adequate.

There had been some signs of unchallenged racism where Eastern European names had been released and it was agreed that this should be robustly challenged wherever possible or removed if it was posted to the Force comments section and of course action taken against any actual offences. This led neatly into a discussion regarding where Police sit in the Criminal Justice System and their role in it. It was unanimously agreed that Police do not deem people guilty, only Courts do, but that public perception was a matter everyone needed to be aware of.

We asked the Head of PSD (Policing Standards Department, who deal with complaints) whether any complaints had been received from those named. At that point in December there were no complaints that the Head of PSD was aware of. He took that opportunity to tell us about the referral process to IOPC (Independent Police Complaints Commission, now Independent Officer for Police Conduct) where harm comes to anyone after police contact. It was very clear that there was no wish or intention to cause those charged any extra harm beyond that which they have put themselves in, having chosen to drive unlawfully and even then there were mechanisms in place to protect the most vulnerable.

With all of the above in mind, Superintendent Vickers offered to contact each person who had been named on charge, to see what effect this had on them. It is anticipated the results of this will feed into the planning for next year’s campaign. Given the challenges of Policing Lincolnshire’s roads with a diminishing visible deterrent, perhaps a question for the Ethics Panel to debate in the future might be around Policing the consequences of drink drive versus tackling the causes of drink drive.

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