Police under fire for 'naming and shaming' drink-drivers on social media sites

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Several UK police forces have come under fire for a controversial drink-driving campaign that named and shamed offenders on social media sites before they face a fair trial.

The scheme, adopted by Staffordshire, West Midlands, Devon and Sussex police forces, saw the names, ages and even addresses of drink-drive offenders published to both Facebook and Twitter.

Lawyers and politicians have blasted the scheme, stating that it undermines a defendant's right to fair trial and could encourage vigilante action from victims.

Staffordshire Police has attracted the most controversy so far as it has named more than 80 drivers over the festive period.

Nick Freeman, a celebrity lawyer who has gained the nickname 'Mr Loophole' for his ability to get famous people out of motoring convictions, told The Daily Mail: "Naming these people before there is a guilty verdict is at best misguided; at worst it is totally immoral."

He added: "I have represented hundreds of clients who have been acquitted for a whole variety of different reasons. This means they have been found not guilty.

"They leave court without a stain on their character.

"If any person has been named and shamed and is ultimately acquitted they may have a substantial claim for damages against the police."

Labour councillor Mike Holder, who sits on the Staffordshire Police and Crime Panel, has also condemned the scheme, saying: "I think it would cause me concern if everybody that was charged was put on a public forum such as Twitter or Facebook.

"It attaches a stigma to an individual where perhaps there might be no reason for it, they might be totally innocent."

"The naming and shaming doesn't protect lives. I think if I was charged I would already by thinking about the consequences," he added.

Matthew Ellis, Staffordshire Police and Crime Commissioner, continues to back the campaign telling the Stoke Sentinel: "The proactive approach Staffordshire Police are taking is to raise the issue of drink driving and the tragedy it can cause by naming people after formal charge.

"If just one person is saved because more people are thinking hard before drinking and getting behind the wheel of a car, that's got to be a benefit – but only at charge."

Guidance from the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) states that drink drivers can be named in the media following being arrested and charged by the police.