Ottawa

Civil liberties group opposes naming impaired driving suspects

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is taking issue with police forces "naming and shaming" people charged with impaired driving-related offences — a move Ottawa police say they're considering.

'We expect people to be punished only after they've actually been found guilty of having done something'

Above, police conduct an impaired driving checkstop in Calgary. A number of police forces in Ontario are naming people charged with driving drunk or high, and Ottawa police are considering the idea. But the Canadian Civil Liberties Association disagrees. (File Photo/CBC)

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is taking issue with police forces "naming and shaming" people charged with impaired driving-related offences — a move Ottawa police recently said they're considering.

It comes after York Regional Police began publicly posting the names of people accused of driving drunk or high, joining other police forces such as Durham Regional Police, Halton Regional Police and the South Simcoe Police Service.

Their hope is that the risk of being identified publicly will deter people from getting behind the wheel when they're drunk or high.

In York, police said they adopted the tactic after they asked their community how they should tackle rising impaired driving rates, and the overwhelming response was to name those accused.

Undermines presumption of innocence

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association disagrees with the move.

Abby Deshman, the association's director of criminal justice, said the people being named publicly have only been charged with a crime, not found guilty of it.

"We expect people to be punished only after they've actually been found guilty of having done something," she told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning on Thursday.

Abby Deshman, director of criminal justice for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said police shouldn't be determining who's guilty and what punishment they deserve. (Courtesy Abby Deshman)

"That's what a judge, a jury, a fair trial is for. It's why we've enshrined the presumption of innocence in our Constitution," she said. "It's really not an appropriate role for the police to take."

She also said there's no evidence to support the method's effectiveness.

"There are very stiff penalties in our law for people who are found guilty of drinking and driving," Deshman said. "To think that this posting of somebody's name is going to do more than the law already sets out to decrease impaired driving, it really is not something that's supported by evidence."

Deshman said the tactic could poses legal problems, as well as undermining the presumption of innocence.

Your thoughts

Ottawa Morning listeners were asked to write in with their opinions, and here's what some of them said.

Patricia Pottie wrote: "Any morally and ethically bankrupt person who gets behind the wheel of a car while drunk or high is not worth worrying about compared to the person or persons he or she might kill or seriously maim. Enough of worrying about what people think — this just might save a few lives."

Jeff Dubois wrote: "It would seem to me that such a policy is akin to will of the mob and I'm always concerned when additional punitive measures are used based on public perception of harm or benefit."

Theresa Whalen wrote: "If police are going to publish names then I would also like to see those charged with texting and driving published. They too made a potentially deadly choice."

CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning

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