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Row deepens over appropriate drink-driving punishments

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Debate over how best to reform drink-driving laws looks set to continue, following concerns that recent changes in Scotland were “too harsh”.

Road safety campaigners had welcomed the new legal limit introduced north of the border (50mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood). Indeed, many lobby groups had urged England and Wales to follow suit.

But only a few months after the changes took effect, there are already calls for a two-tier penalty system.

The Scottish Licensed Trade Association believes that anyone caught exceeding the new limit but who is below the old 80mg limit – which is still in force in the rest of the UK – should be treated with leniency by the courts.

Paul Waterson, the SLTA’s chief executive, pointed to figures which reveal that only 42 motorists have been prosecuted for exceeding the 50mg limit since it was brought in towards the end of last year.

“We think the punishment should fit the crime and that there should be a lower penalty for breaching the new, lower limit if there are no other implications,” he said.

Specifically, the SLTA would like to see sentencing limited to fines or penalty points for those cases where drivers would still be judged as safe to drive in others parts of the UK. Driving bans would not be considered by the courts.

However, the Scottish Government this week stood by its alcohol policy, citing scientific evidence that even a small amount of alcohol in drivers’ blood made it more likely an accident would occur.

A spokesman said: “Ministers have been clear that the aim of the reduced drink-drive limit is to deter drivers from drinking and driving, not to result in more convictions for drink-driving.

“We are determined to end the ­tragedy of deaths caused by drink-driving and if this new law saves one life, then it will be a success.”

Lester Morrill’s road traffic team can provide specialist advice and representation, with the aim of defending and preserving your licence wherever possible or, if the matter is more serious, your liberty. For more details about how our Leeds-based solicitors can help you, please contact us.