Drink Driving: The case for the prosecution

22/12/2015

Janine Smith, Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS East Midlands is also the national strategic lead at the CPS for road traffic offences. Here Janine offers her perspective on drink driving, particularly as we approach Christmas.

"We have all seen the slogans that drinking and driving wrecks lives, yet every year we still see cases where people have ignored the warnings and have got behind the wheel after they have been drinking. It is a serious issue and one that we at the Crown Prosecution Service believe cannot be highlighted often enough, now and throughout the year.

"We know that drinking and driving can have a catastrophic impact on both victims and defendants, as we at the CPS know only too well. We see cases where alcohol has exacerbated a case of careless or dangerous driving. Worst of all, we see and prosecute cases where someones drinking has resulted in another persons death.

"The consequences of drinking and driving are severe. A simple drive home from the pub can result in a criminal record. Magistrates have a range of powers at their disposal, including fines and driving bans. Many offenders depend on driving for their job.

"In more serious cases, the consequences can be much worse than losing your licence. The courts can impose prison sentences of up to fourteen years for causing death by careless driving while unfit through drink or drugs.

"In many cases offenders are people who were of previous good character - people who have never been in trouble with the police before.

"The worst consequence of drink driving is the impact on victims and their families. We hear from bereaved families about the impact that these tragedies have on them through victim impact statements. These are an opportunity for the victim or the bereaved family to explain in court the impact that the offending has had on them. Victim impact statements can be read in court, either by the victims or the bereaved family themselves. Having prosecuted these cases for over 20 years and having listened to victims and bereaved families  I understand the terrible impact that drinking and driving has on peoples lives.

"This is why I want to raise the profile given to the issue of drink driving, over the festive period, but all year round. Nobody wants to see another shattered life or another grieving family. 

"Whether you nominate a designated driver or get a taxi or public transport home, above all, do not think that it couldnt happen to you. It is not worth the risk. It is a simple decision whether to have a drink, or whether to drive.

"Please enjoy your festive season safely and dont drink and drive."

The guidelines for prosecutors when charging and prosecuting cases involving drink driving are available on the CPS website. Find out more here.