A new law which will make it illegal to drive under the influence of drugs is set to be included in today’s Queen’s Speech thanks to a campaign led by the Croydon Advertiser following the killing of a 14-year-old schoolgirl.
The new law will make it illegal for those driving a car to exceed specified limits of controlled drugs in their bodies. Currently prosecution of drug drivers is more difficult because police must show that a driver’s judgement was impaired.
Prime Minister David Cameron said the new legislation was a direct result of Lillian’s Law, a campaign by the Croydon Advertiser and the family of Lillian Groves.
The 14-year-old schoolgirl was knocked down and killed outside her home in New Addington, Croydon, in June 2010.
Speeding driver John Page had taken cannabis before getting behind the wheel but was sentenced to just eight months in jail.
Lillian’s Law calls for roadside drugs testing equipment, a new specific drug-driving offence, stricter sentences and ultimately a zero-tolerance approach to drug-driving.
Since it was launched by the Advertiser last August, more than 15,000 have signed a petition in support of the campaign, which has also been backed by road safety charities, international drugs testing companies and dozens of MPs, including Croydon Central’s Gavin Barwell.
In November, Lillian’s family and Advertiser reporter Gareth Davies were invited to meet Prime Minister Cameron at Number 10.
The Prime Minister promised to review law, adding that Lillian’s death ‘showed the need for roadside drugs-testing devices in every police car’and that current legislation was ‘all wrong”.
A month later the Department for Transport announced the creation of a panel of experts tasked with exploring the implications of the a new offence. They will now decide which drugs it will be include and at what level.
At Prime Minister’s Questions in January, Cameron hinted that new legislation could be introduced as early as the next Queen’s Speech. Meanwhile Lillian’s aunt, Michaela Groves, wrote to every single MP to ask for their support.
This week the Department for Transport confirmed that a new drug-driving offence would be included in the speech, making it ‘much easier for police to take action against drug-drivers”.
Roadside drugs screening devices are expected to receive Home Office approval by the end of the year.
Offenders face a fine of up to £5,000, a driving ban of at least 12 months as well as up to six months in prison.
Prime Minister David Cameron said: ‘I found meeting Lillian Groves’ family in Downing Street late last year incredibly moving.
‘As they said at the time, it simply can’t be right that a schoolgirl like Lillian can lose her life and then we discover we don’t have the laws or the technology to punish drug drivers properly.
‘We want to do for drug driving what drink driving laws have done for driving under the influence of alcohol.
‘That’s why we’re doing what we can to get drugalysers rolled out more quickly.
‘And this week we’ll publish a new drug driving offence so that driving under the influence of drugs itself is a crime, just like it is for drink driving.
‘Lillian Groves’ family should be congratulated for their brave campaign. I hope now that something good can come out of their tragic loss.”
Lillian’s Law was nominated for Campaign of the Year at the Society of Editors Regional Press Awards 2011.
Croydon Advertiser editor Glenn Ebrey said: ‘Lillian’s Law is a campaign which has grabbed the attention not just of the Advertiser’s readership, but also the whole country.
‘Gareth deserves immense praise for all his hard work throughout the campaign but without the impetus provided by the passion and determination of Lillian’s family, this result would never have been achieved.
‘This was clearly a law that had to be changed and I’m glad the campaign has helped the decision-makers see sense and make sure this loophole is tightened up.”