Should We Name and Shame Impaired Drivers?

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This questions has come back to light since Durham Region started to name and shame impaired drivers. Other forces in the GTA are seriously considering following suit, while some groups are strongly against the practice. Niagara Region has had this programme in place for several years now. The programmes may extend to publishing names on social media and in news releases.

Durham Police lists the names of drivers charged with impaired driving on their website. They have found it a good enforcement tool since the neighbours of some people listed have begun calling in to report drivers who are behind the wheel while under suspension.  They credit the naming programme as a detriment to repeat offenders and to new offenders as well. Durham police have cited other programs that use a ‘whiskey plate’ system under which convicted impaired drivers get special licence plates.

These more extreme programs are being used due to the disturbing rise in impaired driving and related deaths in the GTA. The police indicate that they have been trying many different enforcement and education methods to reduce the incidence of impaired driving, but it appears people are not heading the warnings.

York Region Police are eyeing Durham’s programme closely and following one of the worst years in many years for deaths they are giving the programme serious consideration. They also agree that if nothing else, publishing names of individuals charges with impaired and under a 90 suspension would aid in catching them driving while suspended.

Edward Prutschi, a criminal defence lawyer from Thornhill, said the problem with naming and shaming is multi-layered, arguing it not only criminalizes those who are to be considered innocent until proven guilty, but also encourages a sort of extra-judicial vigilantism.

“I’m not talking about pitchforks, but the Internet equivalent, which is to say slinging mud on social media, employers (firing employees), Twitter trolls, that’s the only thing people would seek via this mechanism," Prutschi said. "Naming and shaming appears to be to get someone who is presumed innocent to be punished outside the justice system, which is the opposite of what a court system is intended to do.”   http://www.yorkregion.com/news-story/7058978-have-your-say-should-police-name-and-shame-all-impaired-driving-suspects-/

There don’t appear to be studies on this matter either supporting or debunking it. MADD Canada, an advocacy group against impaired driving has not taken any stand on the subject either.  Other groups argue that publishing the names prior to conviction will breach the suspects’ privacy rights, and rights to be presumed innocent until conviction.  This is countered with the argument of whether they individual is guilty or not, once they are caught and charged they are immediately banned from driving and that driving under conviction is another offense.

Supporters cite that nit is certainly appropriate to name all those who have been convicted, as the individuals are named in public documents (court transcripts) upon conviction. That information becomes public knowledge at that point.