Staffordshire police commissioner defends naming and shaming alleged drink drivers on Twitter

Staffordshire Police published the names of more than 80 drivers charged in the run up to Christmas

A Police and Crime Commissioner insisted a policy of naming and shaming alleged drink drivers on Twitter was saving lives despite claims that it threatened to undermine the rights of defendants to a fair trial.

Staffordshire Police has published the names of more than 80 drivers charged in the run up to Christmas on the social networking site. It is part of a month-long nationwide campaign to reduce the annual toll of alcohol-related deaths and injuries over the festive period.

Commissioner Matthew Ellis said the policy had enjoyed majority support among the public. “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. Over 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,” he said.

The former Conservative councillor was speaking after being urged to resign by one of the country’s most celebrated criminal solicitors, Nick Freeman, whose Mr Loophole nickname was earned by successfully arguing on behalf of a host of celebrity clients.

Mr Freeman accused Mr Ellis of showing a “cavalier disregard for the presumption of innocence".

He said: “By his comments he is presuming that everyone named by his officers is guilty as charged, even before they have appeared before a court. I am calling for his job because anyone who makes an informed decision must make it on the correct facts and he is so erroneous in the facts he is stating.”

Senior officers said it was force policy for Staffordshire Police to name people who have been charged with an offence whilst a defendant’s name at court is a matter of public record.

The force’s Twitter account has more than 25,000 followers and has been promoting a number of law and order messages over Christmas including a campaign against sexual violence. The #DrinkDriversNamedOnTwitter campaign ends on 1 January.

In December 2012 police in England and Wales carried out 150,000 breath tests of which 5,161 were either positive, refused or failed. A total of 290 people died in drink-drive related incidents in 2012 – up by a quarter compared to the previous year, according to the Department for Transport.

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