12:50 Sunday 01 December 2013

Mr Loophole row still rumbling on


Matthew EllisProfile Matthew EllisProfile

STAFFORDSHIRE’S crime chief has hit back at one of the UK’s top motoring lawyers over comments made on drink-driving.

Police and crime commissioner Matthew Ellis has slammed Nick Freeman, also known as ‘Mr Loophole’.

Mr Freeman had claimed a campaign aimed at reducing the number of people who get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol this Christmas is ‘totally immoral’.

The anti-drink drive campaign was run by Staffordshire Police during the festive period and saw officers take to the force’s official Twitter page, @StaffsPolice, to publicly tweet the names of everyone in the county caught driving over the limit.

As the campaign picked up pace, Mr Ellis said he had to oppose calls from some media outlets to have police name people at the time they are arrested rather than when they are formally charged.

He said: “Anyone who has been charged with any offence to appear in court is named on a publicly available court listing.

“The ‘bar’ for charging someone is significantly higher than simply to arrest.

“That’s why I think it would be wrong to name on arrest. It’s too early in the process.

“The proactive approach Staffordshire Police is taking is to raise the issue of drink-driving and the tragedy it can cause by naming people after formal charge.

“If just one person is saved because more people are thinking hard before drinking and getting behind the wheel of a car, that’s got to be a benefit… but only at charge.

“A recent survey suggests that the proactive approach being taken in Staffordshire and several other forces is raising the profile and potentially preventing people being killed or seriously injured on the roads.

“More than 60 per cent of people surveyed said that being named after charge would make them think more about the consequences of driving after having a drink.

“Policing isn’t only about enforcement, it’s also about stopping things from happening before they do, and this campaign is aimed at doing exactly that.”

Mr Freeman has recently spoke out against Mr Ellis saying he disagreed the legal alcohol limit in this country was low, stating he was in fact the highest level in Europe.

Mr Ellis added: “Mr Freeman said it’s immoral that the police are naming drink-drivers after they’ve been charged but I think it’s immoral to miss any opportunity to potentially save just one life.

“It is a clear case of morals. Mr Freeman has obviously earned his nickname Mr Loophole and a widely reported £10,000 a day fee for those who can afford it, for a reason.

“But legal loopholes are no solace for families who have lost dear ones through injuries caused by drink-drivers.

“Staffordshire Police are about saving lives and keeping our roads safe.”

Mr Ellis’ estates review, which could see Uttoxeter Police Station replaced by several smaller police posts, is underway.

An announcement on the future of the station is immanent.

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