Drink-Driving Campaigns: Mixed Messages for Armed Forces

The BBC 'Spotlight' southwest regional news programme last night (14 Dec) showed a simulated road traffic accident at RAF St Mawgan, as part of an anti-drink-driving campaign. I notice that similar campaigns have been held at other military units, at home and overseas. During the report, the RAF Police administered a roadside breath test. This was obviously for the benefit of the cameras, because although the Service Police can administer breath tests in BFG and BFC, there is no legal provision for the Service Police or CivPol to carry out a breath test in respect of drivers 'behind the wire' on military units in the UK. This is because a road on a military unit, where access is restricted, is not classed as a 'road' under the Road Traffic Act 1988.

Although driving whilst under the infuence of drink on UK military units is generally a "standing orders" offence, it can only be proved with complicated medical 'back-tracking' evidence, which relies on a witness (or the driver himself!) giving evidence of how much the driver has had to drink, over a given period. No sample (breath, blood or urine) can be taken or used in evidence. Even in the event of a successful prosecution arising from such poor evidence, there is no power for a driver to be banned fom driving, either under summary proceedings or at court martial (this includes in BFC and BFG). The position regarding civilians is even more absurd. If you are not subject to service law, you can drink and drive on a military unit with complete impunity.

Frankly, it is a bit of a joke for military units to be holding anti-drink-driving campaigns, while the services justice system has no effective measures for dealing with suspected drink-driving offences or for punishing those who are proved to have committed such offences. The new Armed Forces Bill, which proposes sweeping changes to the military justice system, contains no provision for dealing with drink-driving offences.

Almost 40 years after the breathalyser was introduced to the UK, the message to our armed forces is very clear: You are free to drink and drive on military units.
Then why do the MoD take out full page adverts in Soldier and other Squaddie orientated publications showing a torn up licence in a Beer Glass?

Plenty of servicemen zapped for D+D , putting it in this context gets the message home again , it's not big or clever.

If it gets people thinking, that's some of the battle won. I'd rather see some sort of message than none at all.
I can't believe I have just read The Next Darjeeling's post. To say it has wound me up is an understatement.

Perhaps the demonstration he saw was part of a campaign by the MoD in its various guises to try to keep its soldiers and their families alive and out of hospital over Christmas, and for them to keep hold of their licences to enable them to do their jobs.

I really just can't believe how stupid you appear to be. Let me spell it out so tht there is no mixed message:

If you drink and drive, you run the risk of killing yourself or other people.

It's stupid.

Don't do it.
Since when has 'some sort of message' been an adequate substitute for the criminal law or military discipline? The fact that military units are effectively 'drink-driving soft' enclaves, goes against the whole ethos of military discipline and contradicts whatever anti-drink-drive publicity the MOD puts out. It isn't just inadequate, it is hypocritical.
I accept that it's not. But you can't blame your local police force, whether military or civvi, for trying to stop people killing themselves. I also think drawing people's attention to a loophole in this sort of forum is irresponsible - certainly my soldiers would expect to be shat on if they were caught D&D inside camp, and that deterrent seems to work quite well. Far better to demonstrate the risks, and even over-state them, than to winge loudly about how little real power the police have over Drink Drivers inside camps.

Our soldiers tend to regard rules in camp as something to be obeyed, rather than look for the legal technicality which will pull them out of trouble.

Your soldiers can only be legally shat upon, where there is evidence upon which to do so. The only people I am blaming are the senior officers and senior MOD types who, for years, appear to have been turning a blind eye to this very significant loophole. I have given no information here that is not already available in the public domain. The new Armed Forces Bill presented an ideal opportunity for the MOD to legislate on this matter and they did not bother to do so. I would not expect the politicians to know about this problem, but the senior officers advising them ought to have known better.
Any soldier caught driving on camp whilst under the influnce of alcohol (in a civilian or military vehicle) can and should have his FMT 600 removed. This will prevent him from legally driving any military vehicle. The period that his FMT 600 'disqualification' may last is open-ended and is at the discretion of his commander. If driving is his primary trade, or forms part of his day to day responsibilities he is therefore unable to conduct his duties to a satisfactory standard. Administrative action may therefore be taken to discharge the soldier (a rare occurrence, but an option nonetheless). He can also be banned from bringing his civilian car onto camp. This also applies to civilian employees.

The dangers and consequences of drinking and driving are regularly briefed to soldiers. Unfortunately many choose to ignore the advice and think that they are better than the system. They are almost always wrong.
I suspect that effective policing of SSOs in re traffic may also help - if people know they are likely to be stopped they are less likely to take a chance. Where I am currently the RMP have just put the usual wrecked car by the gate. In the meantime, any number of drivers, service and civilian, drive around without seatbelts, flagrantly and dangerously speed and are ignored by the RMP. Are they not missing an opportunity to educate? Those who think that rules on seatbelts, mobiles and speed limits don't apply to them are likely to be amongst those who also drink and drive.

PSNI are currently running some fairly gruesome but thought provoking tv ads at the moment; they are also running a major campaign on driving under the influence of drugs, including prescribed stuff, and are carrying out roadside testing. It seems to be successful, according to news reports, and after years of traffic not being a priority drink drivers are being caught in numbers.

That's the rub. I know alcohol when I smell it and I know when someone's speech is slurred, along with all the other signs of intoxication. But how do you objectively prove someone is driving under the influence of alcohol, other than through a breath, blood or urine test? If the perceptions of a police officer were enough to prove drink-driving offences, then Barbara Castle would not have bothered introducing the breathalyser in 1967.

Admin action, withdrawing FMT600s and banning from driving on camp, even where such actions are enforceable, are all a bit wishy-washy and are no substitute for clear drink-driving legislation, with an effective scale of punishments.


You may well be right, but, very often, as soon as the Service Police start clamping down on minor vehicle offences, people start whining at work and the next thing you know, the garrison or station commander tells OC RMP or OC RAFP to lay off.
Have you written to your MP, T_N_D, and asked him to bring your thoughts to the attention of the relevant ministers? It's clearly a situation that needs to be changed.
section 69 covers it
28 days in nick way more than your get in a civy nick and no need to waste cash or one of those plastic bag thingys :twisted:
But how do you objectively prove someone is driving under the influence of alcohol, other than through a breath, blood or urine test? If the perceptions of a police officer were enough to prove drink-driving offences, then Barbara Castle would not have bothered introducing the breathalyser in 1967.
The RMO is allowed to give his/her 'expert medical opinion' on the matter.

This can, and has been used, although clearly all situations differ.
RogueTrooper said:
The RMO is allowed to give his/her 'expert medical opinion' on the matter.

This can, and has been used, although clearly all situations differ.
Indeed, but you cannot compel a suspect to submit to a medical examination in such circumstances, nor is there any offence of refusing to do so.


No, I haven't, but I have brought the matter up with senior officers, who seem to be content with the status quo.


Book Reviewer
As you are usually not on leave when leaving a mess under the influence but merely off duty unless advised otherwise they can throw the Army Act definition of drunk at you as well.
As we can see, lots of sanctions for this offence can be found under military law under the discretion of local commanders, which is probably as it should be. Look at it this way, a military base is a place of employment. Exactly the same rules would apply at a large supermarket distribution depot, or a college campus or hospital premises (where, not unlike a military base, people both live and work). If you drink drive in any of those places the two types of sanction that swing into action are civil liability and your conditions of employment.

Ergo, to my mind the creation of a totally new law to cover servicemen seems a bit inelegant or, even worse, unfair. Unit commanders should be compelled to properly take action via service police to punish people stupid enough to drink and drive on military property. Put it like this; if I were injured by a drink driver on a barracks and the miscreant's CO didn't take punitive action I would be launching a meaty, well-constructed and extremely expensive lawsuit to join the not inconsiderable cue of others the MOD deals with annually.

From the original post from the RAF Copper, it seems to me that officers do not take drink driving seriously. That's the problem here, not legislation. T_N_D might already know of the new roadside tests being trialled by CIVPOL. It would not take an enormous change to QRs to make them mandatory for drivers on MOD property, and the new discipline code will apply to civilians as well as service personnel as I understand it.


Man in Black

You might well make a charge of drunkenness stick, but it is hardly a substitute for a charge of driving whilst over the prescribed limit and no driving disqualification could be imposed in such circumstances.

Notwithstanding all the creative suggestions here, if the DoT, the civilian police and the Home Office decided 40 years ago that breath testing and driving disqualification was the way ahead, why has the MOD steadfastly refused to introduce such measures, in the UK? Why are we wrestling with an inadequate and cumbersome system for dealing with drink-driving, in an organisation that claims to have discipline as a cornerstone? It isn't even a question of money. If the law allowed it, the Service Police could carry out a roadside breath test with a handheld device and then convey the suspect to the nearest civilian police station for an evidential breath test.


You make some reasonable points, but much hinges on the definition of 'Road' under the RTA 88. This doesn't distinguish
between wholly public places and places of work. It simply defines a 'road' as a road to which the public has access. I'm sure you are aware, case law has given this a wide definition, to mean any road (even car parks) to which the public has access in fact.

Unfortunately, the definition creates absurdities. If you are able to drive into, for example, a supermarket depot, college campus or hospital site, without overcoming any physical barrier, you are still on a 'road' under the RTA. If, however, you have to overcome a barrier, by showing a pass to a guard or inserting a barrier card, the road beyond is no longer a 'road' for RTA purposes. The definition of what is and what is not a 'road' is, therefore, pretty arbitrary. In any case, I'm not sure why drink-driving ought to be regarded as any less dangerous or unworthy of adequate criminal sanctions on a college campus or a military unit, than it would be in Tunbridge Wells high street. Furthermore, the MoD does allow breath testing within fenced garrisons in Cyprus and Germany, but the punishments, do not include disqualification or driving licence endorsement. Frankly, it's a dog's breakfast.

The problem is one of poor legislation, coupled with a haphazard and inconsistent military disciplinary system (none of which will be altered by the new Bill), compounded by apathy among senior military people. The whole thing could be solved with a few strokes of the Bill drafter's pen and a bit of support from the top brass.
Surely the responsibility for policing these matters on MOD bases lies with the MOD police. I am sure I have seen the MOD plod carrying out pre-xmas anti drink driving campaigns at several locations before. It seems entirely proper that these duties should remain within the remit of properly trained and equipped police officers, leaving the various service police agencies (RMP RAFP Reggies) to concentrate on their own primary duties.
Am I mistaken or does Impaired within Barracks not apply in the UK camps? you don't need Breath/blood/urine tests for this but you do need a qualified medical practitioner to state that there are symptoms present in the driver that are attributable to alcohol-EG, flushed skin, slurred speech etc. He does NOT state that in his opinion the driver is impaired-the service copper does. The advantage of this is it does not rely on a set level to be guilty:people's alcohol differences vary quite substantially, and you can be under the legal limit, but your driving is still impaired.
As you stated this will be covered in unit standing orders, but I don't see why you can't breath him anyway-what better way to show that he is impaired?
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