SUSPECTED drink drivers could lose their licence when they are charged after David Cameron agreed to consider changing the rules following a campaign by the family of a West Yorkshire teenager.
The Prime Minister said his “heart goes out” to the family of 16-year-old Jamie Still, from Otley, who was killed after being knocked down by a speeding driver who was two times the legal drink-drive limit.
Jamie’s family have mounted a campaign attempting to close the legal loophole that left driver Max McRae free to get back behind the wheel for another eight months while he was on bail.
McRae was later jailed for four years but 3,000 people have signed a petition calling for “zero tolerance” for drink drivers, demanding that they lose their licence immediately.
Urged by Leeds North West Liberal Democrat MP Greg Mulholland to meet the family, Mr Cameron said: “My heart goes out to your constituents for the loss that they have suffered.
“You raise a very important point about what happens in cases like these and what you can and cannot do with bail conditions. I will certainly go away and look at that, it may well be this is something we can consider alongside the recommendations we are considering about drug-related driving.”
Jamie, a keen sportsman, was killed in Otley on New Year’s Eve 2010 as he walked back from a takeaway with friends. He was struck by a car driven by McRae, 21, of Warren Lane, Arthington, Leeds, who was travelling at around 50mph on a 30mph road.
McRae had been drinking in several pubs with a friend and his girlfriend prior to the accident and when he was breathalysed by police he gave a reading of 63mg per 100ml of blood, the legal limit for driving being 35mg per 100ml.
Last year he was jailed for four years for causing death by careless driving while unfit through drink and banned from driving for five years. Jamie’s mother Karen Strong insists the crime should have been treated as manslaughter and is furious that he was free to continue driving for eight months after the offence.
Currently, judges and magistrates have discretionary powers to suspend a driving licence if they believe that a person charged with drink-driving is deemed to be a significant danger to the public, but the campaign calls for it to be a condition of bail in these cases.
Mrs Strong said she was “encouraged” by the Prime Minister’s intervention but added: “We can’t stop the petition yet, We have got a long way to go and we can’t let the Government back down now.”
Mr Mulholland said: “The unnecessary and tragic death of Jamie Still was something that deeply affected the whole community in Otley, as well as being heartbreaking for his family and friends.
“Their loss has been made even more difficult by the fact that the person who killed him, who was more than twice over the drink driving limit and driving recklessly, was allowed to continue driving for eight months afterwards. This is deeply distressing for the family, as well as quite grotesque and flies in the face of common sense.
“Someone whose dangerous or careless driving has caused someone’s death should have their driving licence suspended automatically as a condition of bail.”