5 JULY 1986, Page 5


WHATEVER is eventually decided in the case in Birmingham last week in which a man was convicted of drunken driving despite the fact that his breath test showed him under the limit, the comments of the under-secretary for transport, Mr Peter Bottomley, should not pass unnoticed. Mr Bottomley was asked on the Today pro- gramme how drunkenness could be satis- factorily proved if the courts departed from the breath test. He would not answer this question. Instead, he kept up an hysterical barrage of counter-questions about the horrors of drunken driving and how the interviewer would feel if one of her family had been killed or maimed as a result of someone else's drunken driving. His argu- ment was of a crudity and nastiness which were, in a minor way, quite shocking. He was saying, in effect, that because drunken driving was very wicked, proof was not really very important. The same is said by ministers now whenever a crime is particu- larly unpopular — arguing, for instance, that no considerations of legal process should impede the 'war against drugs'.