Only one Scottish driver referred over smoking in car with child

Only one driver in Scotland has been referred to prosecutors since smoking in a car with a child became illegal in December 2016.

The Scottish Government are on record as having told police that enforcing the new legislation was “not a priority”. And officers aren’t equipped with the paperwork to issue on-the-spot fines.

Scotland appears to be following in the footsteps of England and Wales, where the ban came into force in October 2015.

There is just one reported case there of a prosecution.

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The ban on smoking in cars with people under the age of 18 was introduced to protect them from the harm caused by second-hand smoke.

But councils were told not to issue fines in the first six months and to concentrate on educating drivers.

Local authorities have the primary responsibly for issuing the fines, which could be up to £1,000, but the law states the police can too.

Speaking last year, Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins, of Policed Scotland, pledged: “Officers will deal with this should they come across it in the course of their duties.”

But officers do not have any on-the-spot tickets they can issue for the offence.

The fixed-penalty notices for speeding and other offences, do not currently cover smoking in vehicles with children.

Instead officers have to refer potential offences to prosecutors for them to decide the outcome. Just one case, which happened in Kirkcaldy, Fife, in February, has been referred to the procurator fiscal.

A spokeswoman for the British Lung Foundation said: “Laws are already in place to enforce wearing seatbelts and prohibit the use of mobile phones while driving. There is no reason why police shouldn’t be able to enforce this law in the same way.

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“Evidence from countries like Australia, Canada, South Africa and the US, where similar bans have been put in place, suggest it is enforceable.”

The Scottish Government’s press release on 4 December 2016, when the law came into effect, states, “Anyone caught breaking the law will be committing an offence carrying a fine of up to £1000” but makes no mention that fines would not be issued for the first six months.

Documents released under freedom of information laws shows the Scottish Government told police chiefs last November that “enforcement is not a priority.”