Concerns over drink-driver prison rate

ROAD death campaigners today claimed a lack of prison places could be behind figures which show Suffolk has one of the lowest jail sentencing rates for drink-drivers in the country.

ROAD death campaigners today claimed a lack of prison places could be behind figures which show Suffolk has one of the lowest jail sentencing rates for drink-drivers in the country.

New statistics given to MPs show the county is third bottom in the league table when it comes to jailing drivers caught over the alcohol limit.

While magistrates can punish offenders with a prison sentence of up to six months, the average punishment handed out in Suffolk is 2.6 months - with only Norfolk and Essex benches giving shorter penalties.

Most magistrates gave more than three months on average, with the severest being 3.4 months in Durham, Northamptonshire, Northumbria and Dyfed-Powys.


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The Campaign Against Drink-Driving (CADD), which provides support to families who have had relatives killed or injured by drink-drivers and is campaigning for tougher sentences and mandatory rehabilitation courses for offenders, expressed concern at Suffolk's performance.

A spokeswoman said: “Judges and magistrates are being told by the attorney general not to send people to jail except in extreme circumstances because of the crisis in the prisons.

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“When sentencing, most courts try to send offenders to jails which are local, except in the most serious cases.

“It could be that Suffolk has a lack of prison places compared to centres such London and so fewer people are being imprisoned.”

CADD believes each case must be considered on its merits, but anyone caught for a second time should be jailed.

“We believe a person should be given a chance, but a second chance is no chance - repeat offenders must go to jail,” she said.

“We would also like to see every drink-driver sent on a rehabilitation course to help them with their problems, their attitudes and driving. Many courts do this, but sadly the government has not made it mandatory.”

No-one was prepared to comment from Suffolk Magistrates. However, benches have to consider all cases on their merits and not all people pleading guilty or found guilty of driving with excess alcohol will be jailed.

The circumstances of each incident will be different, the amount of alcohol in the blood or breath will vary, and some offences may involve poor driving, even causing injury or death, while others will not. The benches have to take into account sentencing guidelines as well as advice from probation and social services officers' reports.

Do you think drink-drivers should receive tougher sentences? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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