Kent Police has launched its Christmas drink drive campaign by warning offenders that there is technology and procedure in place enabling a Court to disqualify in just 90 minutes.
Following arrest for failing a breath test the police are proposing to use virtual court technology so that those who are subsequently charged with a drink driving offence can in this way “appear” before Magistrates as soon as they have sobered up. This cuts out completely any delay between charge and appearance at Court a week or two later.
The system works by having defendants appear via video link and magistrates have the power to disqualify them from driving with immediate effect. The Courts have long had the power to impose an interim disqualification in serious cases and so this principle is not new. Nonetheless it shows a determination to deal with cases quickly and robustly.
It can be an effective way of dealing with serious cases. It applies to those driving under the influence of drugs as well as those in control of vehicles who have had too much to drink. Simply being in a stationary vehicle can be enough to put you in charge so considerable care is needed.
Drivers who intend pleading guilty can be dealt with quickly and this speeded up process may be appropriate for them.
If for any reason a driver cannot quickly be brought before a court, and if the case involves high alcohol levels and aggravated for example by an accident an interim disqualification using this method may well be appropriate. However, it cannot be used in every case and will not apply to those denying charges. Interim disqualification has to be carefully considered by the Court and is not routinely imposed. In most cases a driver charged with drink driving does appear before a court within about a week to 10 days. This gives just enough time to take expert legal advice and to make proper arrangements for Court.
Interim disqualifications are of course available to the Courts all year round.