A lawyer to the stars had his comments branded ‘naive’ by a chief inspector after he waded in on Sussex Police’s crackdown on drink-driving.
Nick Freeman, aka ‘Mr Loophole’, said the decision by the force to ‘name and shame’ those who drink-drive this Christmas period went against the fundamental presumption of innocent until proven guilty.
In November officers said they would name all those who are to appear in court charged with drink-driving on Sussex roads in a bid to curb the number of cases this year.
Mr Freeman has represented some of the country’s best-known celebrities including Jimmy Carr, Jeremy Clarkson and Wayne Rooney.
He said of the Sussex Police campaign: “Naming these people before there is a guilty verdict is at best misguided; at worst it is totally immoral.
“Naming and shaming before conviction, unless it is in the public interest to do, is ridiculous and is potentially designed to encourage vigilante action.
“I have represented hundreds of clients who have been acquitted for a whole variety of different reasons. This means they have been found not guilty. They leave court without a stain on their character.”
He claimed that if someone has been named and shamed and then acquitted, they would be entitled to damages against the police.
The lawyer added: “I cannot imagine that the releasing of these names is a deterrent for anybody, so the decision to do so astounds me.”
But Sussex Police has fought back at Mr Freeman’s comments, labelling them ‘deliberately inflammatory’.
Chief inspector Natalie Moloney said: “We are not naming people arrested unless they have been charged and are going to court. This is not intended to shame them, it is intended to act as a deterrent to those who may have been considering driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs. We will follow this up with information as to what has happened at court.
“We have always been able to provide such details to the media but previously have not done so unless the media specifically asked about cases.
“Suggesting that naming those charged with driving offences will lead to vigilante action is at best naive and at worst deliberately inflammatory.
“We support the idea that being innocent until proven guilty is key to the legal process. Nothing that we are doing affects that and it should be remembered that what we are releasing is publicly available anyway.”