David Cameron: 'Lillian Groves' death shows the need for roadside drugs testing'
DAVID Cameron has told the Advertiser he wants to create a new law which would make it illegal to drive under the influence of drugs.
Speaking to the family of Lillian Groves, a schoolgirl killed after being hit by a drug-driver, the Prime Minister said the current requirement to prove drugs had impaired driving was "all wrong" and needed to be changed.
Mr Cameron also said the 14-year-old's death "shows the need" for police to be given roadside testing devices.
The specially arranged meeting at Downing Street on Tuesday has given the family real hope that our campaign, Lillian's Law, will be successful.
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Just three months after it was launched the family were invited to Number 10 to speak about Lillian.
Mr Cameron said the Government is considering a new driving offence which would make it illegal to drive with more than a specific level of an illegal drug in the body.
This would remove the need for police to prove impairment, through outdated balance and coordination tests, and represent a significant shift in road safety legislation, bringing drugs into line with drink-driving.
However, Mr Cameron told Lillian's family he was open to the idea of adopting a zero tolerance approach, a policy our campaign calls for.
He said: "We need to get away from impairment. The impairment test is all wrong. It allows you to be a drug taker who is driving and that's not on.
"Your proposal is to have a new offence of driving under the influence of drugs, rather than what we have got at the moment which is if you commit a crime then drug taking can be a part of the offence.
"Yours is a more logical approach and I think we need to go back and re-examine.
"What's the argument for not doing this when we have the offence of driving under the influence of alcohol?
"What is good for one ought to be good for the other.
"There's no doubt in my mind that the drink-driving law has changed a lot of behaviour.
"The police know there's a simple test and a simple offence. There's a strong argument which says if you do the same for drug-driving they would go after that problem in the same way.
"It's coming to the time when it ought to be a separate offence and I think this case is a good example of what is needed."
Another key aim of Lillian's Law is the introduction of the "drugalyser", a roadside testing device which can be used by the police.
Suspected drug-drivers are currently detected using an impairment test like drink-driving prior to the introduction of the breathalyser in 1967.
Where scientific roadside devices have been adopted, such as Australia, they have had a dramatic impact on drug-driving.
Michaela Groves, Lillian's aunt, challenged the Prime Minister on when such devices would be introduced in the UK.
Mr Cameron said the Home Office is currently testing six different devices in laboratories using different drugs at varying levels.
He said: "I think that's good. It means they are getting on with it.
"There's a lot of different drugs they are trying to test for and I think you have to evaluate what works.
"But the intention of Lillian's Law, and I think where the Government is going, is that it should be done now.
"It's just like the breathalyser really. It's incredibly simple and should be in every police car.
"I admit it's taken too long. We're going to give it a big shunt and get them into police stations as fast as possible because I think that will make a difference."
In a parliamentary debate in June, Crime and Security Minister James Brokenshire said the devices would be in police stations by the end of this year.
The Home Office told the Advertiser this deadline would not be met. A revised date has yet to be set.
Once one or more devices are approved, police authorities will be able to purchase the equipment.
Lillian's family are adamant a roadside test would have found her daughter's killer, John Page, was unfit to drive before he hit Lillian on June 26 last year.
Mr Cameron gasped and shook his head when told that Page was handed just an eight month sentence, reduced by half because of his guilty plea.
The killer walked free from prison four weeks later.
He said the Government would look again at having more of a say over the guidelines set by the sentencing council after legislation is passed.
He said: "I've had a constituency case like this which is almost identical and exactly the same period in prison.
"The mum, I'll never forget, said is this the price for the death of my child? It's just not good enough."
Lillian's Law calls for the introduction of roadside drugs testing devices, zero tolerance on drug-driving and tougher sentences for those who commit such offences.
More than 15,000 people have signed the petition since the campaign began in August.
The law is named after Lillian Groves, a 14-year-old schoolgirl killed by a speeding motorist outside her home in Headley Drive, New Addington, last June.
It was only once the case came to court that her family were told her killer, John Page, had smoked cannabis before getting behind the wheel.
He said he couldn't remember how the joint, which had his DNA on it, came to be on his dashboard.
Because of the lack of roadside testing equipment, Page was not tested by the police until nine hours after the incident.
Cannabis was found in his bloodstream but not enough to charge him with a more serious offence than causing death by careless driving and while driving without insurance. He was sentenced to just eight months, reduced by half for a guilty plea.
Had he been tested earlier, Lillian's family believe he could have been charged with the more serious offence of causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drugs, which carries a maximum 14-year sentence.
They hope that drugs-testing devices will act as a deterrent to drug-driving, for which just 168 people were convicted in England and Wales in 2008.