‘Migrant link’ to high Spalding area drink drive figures

A motorist being breathalysed
A motorist being breathalysed

Figures revealing the number of motorists per town banned for drink and drug-driving show Spalding second in the county behind Boston.

The results, released after a Freedom of Information request, show 598 drivers were banned in Boston while 349 suffered the same fate in Spalding between January 2011 and December 2015.

The figures do not include the offenders’ nationalities but it has been suggested high levels could be linked to migrants not understanding the British drink-driving laws.

Police have also said that while limits are lower in other countries the law is not ‘enforced with the same commitment’ as here.

The Lincolnshire Road Safety Partnership said previous research it had carried out at one point showed that although some six per cent of the population of the county was Eastern European, figures suggested they accounted for 32 per cent of the drink-drive arrests.

AA President Edmund King said: “Looking at the facts of the country as a whole, nationally it does seem to be more drink-driving convictions in areas where we have more migrant workers.”

He added the number of breathalyser tests carried out by the forces in general could have an effect on the results released by Motoring.co.uk and which looked at the period January 2011 to December 2015.

And without knowing how many tests each force carried out it was difficult to say how each force was actually doing.

He pointed to a campaign against drink-driving in the UK over a number of decades and said the message about drink-driving in the UK had generally been good.

He added: “One of the general points is if you have got a large number of overseas workers that haven’t picked up on the years of campaigning.”

John Siddle, from the Lincolnshire Road Safety Partnership, however, said migrants could not necessarily claim 
ignorance of the UK’s laws.

He said there had been a campaign in 2012-13 which took steps to tackle the issues in the migrant communities.

He said: “At the time it was really difficult to dig down into the data.

“We couldn’t just go on arrest records because the people may have foreign sounding names but could have been third generation families.”

He explained they had to look at things like National Insurance numbers and driving licences and ‘all sorts of bits and pieces’ to put the data together.

He said: “The way it came out, it was quite shocking that they [Eastern European migrants] represented something around six per cent of the population of Lincolnshire, but 32 per cent of the drink-drive 
arrests.”

He told how the partnership and other organisations then worked to educate migrants and make them aware of what the law is.

He said: “I think, on the back of that campaign, whilst there’s some argument that the migrants from then, some of those have gone home and more have come over to replace them and migration is on the increase, we still think that the message is out there.”

He said it was ‘very, very rare’ for foreign nationals caught drink-driving to turn around and say they didn’t know. He also pointed to the drink-drive law in Poland being limited to 0 microgrammes of alchohol in a person, compared to the UK’s limit of 35 for breath, 80 for blood and 107 in urine.

He did, however, say that there had been a focus in safety campaigns to do with drink-driving across the UK over the past 50 years, which had created a culture where residents in the country found it socially unacceptable to drink-drive.

He said the culture may not apply to foreign nationals since they had not had the same sustained campaigning ‘thrust upon them’. Chief Insp Phil Vickers of Lincolnshire Police Specialist Operations called the figures ‘very basic’ – adding that they do not show the driving population and gave no indication of the ‘proportion of disqualified drivers’.

However, he said: “Certainly we know that across the rest of Europe, although the drink-drive limits are lower than England and Wales (they are almost all at the lower Scotland level), it is not enforced with the same commitment and the penalties for being caught are lower (driving bans tending to be shorter).

“It is fair to say that we still see an issue with European migrant workers conforming to what would be normal in their country of origin.”

He also said the area benefited from the fact Boston was a roads policing base – meaning there was an increased officer pressence.

A member of the Polish community who did not wish to be named, said: “They come here, maybe they think they can do more – but I don’t think so.”

He said more needed to be done to promote the laws through local papers, radio and news sites as well – and suggested campaigns needed to be constant to remind people of the consequences of drink-driving.

He also said drink-drive laws were policed strongly in Poland with hefty financial penalties.

He added: “It’s your decision if you drink and you get in your car and drive. That’s your choice but it’s the people you can hurt that matter – it’s about the lives of those people.”