Drink drivers may have to face victims' families

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The Independent Online

Hardcore drink drivers could be forced to take road safety courses and meet the families of victims killed by motorists over the limit.

Hardcore drink drivers could be forced to take road safety courses and meet the families of victims killed by motorists over the limit.

The measures are in Home Office plans to tackle alcohol-related violence. These include banning people from having opened bottles or cans of drink in public, closing pubs and clubs where violence is frequent and possibly giving fixed-penalty fines to drunken louts.

Although there has been gradual fall in the number of motorists who drink and drive, ministers and police are concerned about a core of offenders who ignore all warnings.

The Home Office is expected to propose forcing all motorists caught over the limit to take a rehabilitation safety course. Several police forcesoffer the programme, for which drivers can volunteer in return for having fewer points off their licence or being banned.

The course teaches the dangers of being in charge of a vehicle while over the limit, and can include talks by relatives of people killed by drunk drivers about their bereavement. The proposals are expected in a consultation paper in the autumn

Charles Clarke, the Home Office minister, yesterday outlined the Alcohol Action Plan, a package of measures the Home Office believes will help reduce the escalating problem of alcohol-related violence and under-age drinking.

Although he fell short of introducing Tony Blair's much-ridiculed idea for police to take drunks to cashpoints to pay on-the-spot fines, he announced consultation on fixed-penalty fines. Offenders will not have to put their hands in their pockets instantly, but will be pursued if they do not pay on time or exercise their right to challenge the fine in a magistrates' court. But what evidence police would need to decide whether someone was drunk is unclear.

Among other ideas is an extension of proof-of-age card schemes to stop under-18s buying alcohol, although such a card would not be compulsory. Other schemes to be expanded include "pub watches" to ban troublemakers, refusal to serve people who are already drunk and improvements in the design and management of pubs.

Toughened drinking glasses may be introduced in pubs and clubs, with more plastic glasses and less beer in bottles.

Home Office figures show that alcohol misuse is heavily linked to 40 per cent of violent crime, 78 per cent of assaults and 88 per cent of criminal damage. About 125,000 people suffer facial injuries in violent attacks each year in Britain, the Home Office said, with alcohol a factor in most.

Mr Clarke said: "Public drunkenness can give rise to serious problems of disorderly conduct, nuisance, criminal damage and alcohol-related assaults, particularly in the proximity of licensed premises at closing time.

"In addition, it can increase fear of crime and so reduce the quality of life for many people. This is clearly unacceptable.

"These measures will have a significant impact in reducing alcohol abuse and alcohol-related crime."