Drink drivers 'to have cars seized and crushed for first offence'

NEARLY 40 vehicles have been crushed as part of a crackdown on persistent drink-drivers.

Officers believe the "outstanding success" of the six-month-old scheme could see it extended to first-time drink-drive offenders caught several times over the limit or who refuse to provide a breath test or drive while banned.

Under the pioneering Scottish crackdown, prosecutors can seek the destruction of the vehicle of anyone caught twice for drink-driving.

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Prosecutors have the power to seek to forfeit the vehicle of any driver charged with an imprisonable offence, so the scheme could eventually cover those convicted of dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving.

The 39 vehicles seized so far include a 20,000 Audi TT by Grampian Police and a Land Rover Freelander in Edinburgh.

The more valuable ones are sold while the rest are crushed.

More seizures are expected to follow among the 210 drivers who have been caught drink-driving since December, when the scheme started.

It was yesterday extended to drug-driving offenders ahead of the annual two-week summer drink/drug driving campaign, which starts on 5 July.

Exceptions to forfeiture are made in cases such as when other family members use the vehicle.

The latest available figures show there were a total of 2,134 drink and drug drivers caught in Scotland between December and March – one fifth fewer than the 2,685 in the same period the previous year. No past figures for repeat offenders were available.

Central Scotland Chief Constable Kevin Smith, who is head of road policing for the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, said of the scheme: "We believe it has been an outstanding success. The monetary value of the car may be of little consequence, but the loss to this driver in terms of going about their daily business will be extremely high."

A second drink-drive conviction within ten years carries an automatic three-year driving ban, but Mr Smith said vehicle seizures would help prevent offenders ignore disqualification.

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He added: "We will look at ways of extending the scheme even further, such as where there are high (alcohol] readings or refusal to give a breath test."

He added that some one in nine road deaths were caused by drink driving, and he hoped to see a "vast reduction" in drink- and drug-driving during next month's campaign.

Frank Mulholland, the Solicitor General for Scotland, said: "We will grow this incrementally but would have to take the public with us."

He said drink-drivers caught several times over the limit could be added to the scheme from this year's Christmas campaign onwards.

However, motoring groups urged caution. Neil Greig, of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said: "We would have concerns about extending the scheme any further down the hierarchy of offences, but for the most serious offences."

Paul Watters, of the Automobile Association, said: "Hopefully, the message about vehicle seizure will get through to those who may be able to prevent an irresponsible family member or someone else from criminal driving practices in the first place."