“Drink-driving law is a ass”

bumbleDickens’s Mr Bumble would feel vindicated if he read about Yaya Touré’s conviction for drinking and driving.

I realise that no rational argument is possible when modernity’s sanctimonious dander is up. Over the limit? Off with his head.

But do let’s pretend we still live in a sane world where one could doubt everything except God. That world would distinguish between malum prohibitum and malum in se. The latter is wrong intrinsically; the former, only because it’s prohibited.

I’d suggest that drinking and driving is a clear-cut case of malum prohibitum. This, though statistical data doubtless show that alcohol is occasionally a contributing factor in fatal accidents.

But since when do we arrest people on statistical probability? For example, a black man is statistically more likely to commit a crime than a white one. Does this mean all black men should be arrested preventively?

There’s some reductio ad absurdum here, but not that much. Yes, a driver whose blood content of alcohol is higher than some arbitrarily established limit (for example, in France it’s half ours – does it take more to get us drunk?) is breaking a law. But the law isn’t just, and such laws never command much respect.

What kills people is bad driving, not drinking and driving. If someone drives dangerously, say tailgating at high speeds or swerving between lanes on motorways (the French routinely do both even when sober), then by all means throw the book at him.

But stopping a driver for no reason and then punishing him because his reflexes have supposedly been made slower by one glass of wine too many doesn’t strike me as just.

For example, I’m blessed with very quick reflexes, which have been further honed by a lifetime of playing tennis, much of it at the net. So even after drinking half a bottle of wine and thereby losing 20 per cent of my reaction time, I’d probably still be faster to react than my stone-sober octogenarian neighbour. Yet she’s deemed legal whereas I wouldn’t be.

If accidents caused by drunk drivers were a widespread problem (and Britain’s rate of road deaths is by far the lowest in Europe), then a better solution would be to treat a fatal accident caused by a drunk driver as murder, punishable by a mandatory life sentence. That, I dare say, would be a stronger deterrent than a year’s ban and a fine.

So much for the crime. Now let’s discuss punishment, specifically one meted out to Touré. For in any sane world that would constitute a gross miscarriage of justice.

This supposedly teetotal Muslim drank from a jug of diet Coke supposedly without realising it was laced with brandy, which put him at twice the drink-driving limit. Now, as far as I’m concerned, anyone drinking such revolting concoctions should be imprisoned for this gross lapse of taste alone, even if he doesn’t drive afterwards.

The addition of brandy would make diet Coke even more disgusting, and personally I’d doubt the veracity of a man who claims he couldn’t tell the difference. Such lack of discernment also calls for a summary conviction.

Such facetious comments aside, let’s accept for the sake of argument that, malum prohibitum or no, Touré deserved to be banned and fined.

The length of the ban he received, 18 months, is more or less normal for someone found to be twice over the limit. But the fine of £54,000 strikes me as ever so slightly excessive, not to mention draconian. This is roughly 50 times more than the usual penalty for this transgression because the fine was means-tested.

Since Mr Touré gets £200,000 a week in salary alone, and probably as much again in endorsements and image rights, he is a wealthy man – so much is true.

The logic behind means-testing is that for a rich man like Mr Touré a normal fine wouldn’t constitute much of a punishment. He probably tips parking attendants that much.

By the same logic, even £54,000 isn’t very punitive either, considering that Mr Touré makes as much in just over a day. But we’ll let it pass and concentrate instead on the diabolical injustice of means-tested punishments in general.

For one thing it contravenes the sacred principle of British jurisprudence: the same law for all. But even putting that aside for a moment, this practice isn’t only unjust but also illogical.

Why single out fines? What about prison sentences? It could be argued that imprisonment isn’t that much of a punishments for a chap who has been in and out of the pokey since his early teens and who still has friends from his last stint left inside. At the same time, even a few months in prison is a severe punishment for a middle-aged accountant who got a little too creative.

So why not apply means testing to that? Sentence the accountant to two months instead of a year, and the serial burglar to 10 instead of one. Good idea? No?

Well, I don’t see any substantive difference between that and fleecing Mr Touré for the same infraction most people would be fined £1,000. Mr Bumble, ring your office.

1 thought on ““Drink-driving law is a ass””

  1. What about people who Speed And Tailgate all the time? These people have very Severe Mental Problems to begin with since many of times they do it on Purpose especially when i am in the Right Lane to begin with. Then again many of them are Real Pathetic Losers anyway that need to get a life that they Don’t have at all.

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