17:41 Friday 24 January 2014

Twitter drink-drive hashtag to be ditched

Written bySARAH BOULD

A CONTROVERSIAL campaign by Staffordshire Police which named drink drivers on Twitter will be done differently in the future.

The force ran the campaign throughout December. It named drivers who had been charged with drink driving after failing a roadside breath tests. It used #DrinkDriversNamedOnTwitter as the hastag.

The campaign was welcomed by many, but was also subject to a criticism, with some saying that it implied a person’s guilt before they had appeared in court. A leading lawyer even called for the resignation of police and crime commissioner Matthew Ellis.

It was then brought to the attention of the Information Commissioner’s Office, which has advised that if the campaign is used in the future, a different hashtag will have to be used.

A spokesperson for the ICO told the Mail: “The ICO spoke to Staffordshire Police following its #DrinkDriversNamedOnTwitter campaign.

“Our concern was that naming people who have only been charged alongside the label ‘drink driver’ strongly implies a presumption of guilt for the offence, which we felt wouldn’t fit with the Data Protection Act’s fair and lawful processing principle.

“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.”

The organisation has also spoken with the Association of Chief Police Officers about making other police forces aware of the issues raised by this case.

Staffordshire Police said it would not be releasing a statement in relation to the issue.

More than 80 people were named on the social networking site last month, all of whom had been stopped by police officers and charged with drink-driving.

Matthew Ellis said: “If just one person is saved because more people are thinking before drinking and getting behind the wheel, it has to be of benefit, but only following a charge.”

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