Lillian's Law to be included in Queen's Speech 08/05/2012 08:27:00
You’ll have seen in the papers over the Bank Holiday weekend the great news that Lillian’s Law is to be included in Wednesday’s Queen’s Speech.
Lillian’s Law is named after Lillian Groves, a 14 year-old constituent of mine who was killed outside her home in New Addington by a driver under the influence of drugs. He was sentenced to just eight months in jail and served just four months. To their great credit, her family wanted something positive to come from this tragedy and launched a campaign - ably assisted by The Croydon Advertiser and their excellent reporter Gareth Davies in particular - for a package of changes to ensure that in future drug driving is taken as seriously as we currently take drink driving.
The campaign has three main elements:
- to change the law relating to drug driving so that it is analogous to the drink driving law. If you drive with more than a certain level of alcohol in your blood you are held to be impaired and are committing a crime but if you drive with drugs in your system there are no limits over which you are held to be impaired - the prosecution have to prove that your driving was impaired by drugs, which isn’t easy to do so very few people get prosecuted. Despite the fact that studies have shown that drugs are a factor in 1 in 5 fatal accidents, just 1,644 people were convicted of drug-driving in England and Wales in 2008 compared with 71,449 convicted of drink-driving;
- second, to get the Government to approve technology already in use in other countries to allow police officers to test the level of drugs in someone’s system both at a police station and at the roadside; and
- third, when these other two elements are in place to have a random stop and test campaign so that people get the message that it is not acceptable to take drugs and drive and that if they do so they are liable to get caught and properly punished.
Lillian’s parents and her aunt and uncle came to see me at one of my surgeries last year and asked if I could help. I was conscious that responsibility for this issue fell between several different Government departments and that people had been talking about doing something about this for years without any real progress being made so I decided to go straight to the top and raised the issue with the Prime Minister at Prime Minister’s Questions on 26th October 2011. He invited me to bring the Groves family to 10 Downing Street to meet with him and, to his credit, he then took up the issue, knocked some heads together in the relevant departments and, much quicker than we expected, is proposing to change the law. The campaign will continue - we need to make sure Parliament approves the change and that the technology to test people is in place (a device for use in police stations is currently in testing) - but this is a huge step forward. There’s been a lot of talk in the wake of last week’s election results of the Government needing to focus on issues of concern to the people who elected us - well this is a great example of the Prime Minister doing just that.
On a personal level, it’s nice to know that, whatever the future holds, I can hopefully point to one piece of legislation and say, “I had a hand in changing that” but the real credit must go to the Groves family. As a parent myself, I can just about imagine the pain they must go through every day. It is a special kind of person who experiences such a tragedy and responds by seeking to change society for the better to make it less likely that others will endure the same loss.
And to those who have lost faith in our political system, Natasha and Gary have shown that if you have a good cause and a bit of help along the way, you can change the world around you.
A good thing. Also an end to the "soft touch" approach to drugs in general where police give cautions, turn a blind eye etc.
But I'm not in favour of random stop and test campaigns. This isn't a police state. Apart from being wrong in principle, my observation is that whatever the justification for extra powers, a process of mission creep starts and they end up being used in situations not envisaged.
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