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Staffordshire Police criticised over drink driving campaign
Updated 12:17pm Tuesday 28th January 2014 in News
A LEADING road traffic lawyer has urged the motorists that were named and shamed on Twitter during Staffordshire Police's controversial drink driving campaign to consider suing the force.
Nick Freeman, who has defended the likes of David Beckham and Jeremy Clarkson, has also called on Staffordshire's police and crime commissioner Matthew Ellis to "carefully consider his position" after the force decided to publicly name people who had been charged with the offence on the social media site - before they had been convicted.
An investigation by the Information Commissioners Office (ICO), an independent authority which protects data privacy, found the force had broken the rules by implying those named alongside the hashtag #drinkdrivers were guilty.
An ICO spokesman said: "We have received reassurances from Staffordshire Police that the hashtag will no longer be used in this way, and are happy with the procedures they have in place.
"As a result, we will be taking no further action."
Mr Freeman, who is based in Manchester, said the ruling was "exactly right" and said the trial by social media was "a breathtaking disregard to the law".
He continued: "My advice to those motorists who were named and shamed on Twitter is firstly to make a formal complaint to the chief constable, and secondly to consider pursuing a civil action against the police force involved for any relevant damages.
"There must be a huge question mark over the future of Mr Ellis after this debacle. He has repeatedly misunderstood the law in several different ways and he has refused to back down even when the error of his was pointed out to him.
"His own brand of law - Ellis's Law - insinuated those charged with a criminal offence were guilty come what may. This was totally misconceived and potentially undermined the criminal justice system.
"With Ellis Law you are guilty as charged until you are proven innocent. In our legal system a police officer is not the arbiter of guilt or innocence. That role is the preserve of the judge and jury or magistrates.
“I fully support naming and shaming offenders - but only after conviction.”
Mr Ellis refused to comment on Mr Freeman's claims but said: "The ICO's independent inquiry has happened and the outcome was as it was expected to be. I've asked the chief constable to provide an evaluation into the campaign which is ongoing and then I'll talk to the force and a decision will be made as to whether the campaign was successful or not."
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