EXCLUSIVE Driving under the influence of drugs makes driving under the influence in shock report

EXCLUSIVE Drug-driving overtakes drunk driving: Shock report reveals danger on UK roads as 80 a day are high behind the wheel

  • An average of 80 motorists are caught every day, but many escape justice
  • Chief constables are calling for tougher sentences and say the scale of the problem is hidden

Driving under the influence of drugs is more common than driving under the influence, according to a shocking police report today.

An average of 80 motorists are caught every day, but many may escape justice due to delays in processing blood tests.

And for the first time since driving under the influence of drugs was criminalized in 2015, prosecutions have fallen. The report of the National Council of Chiefs of Police shows that:

  • Drivers can be fired because it takes four to five months to process test results and officers have only six months to prosecute;
  • They are powerless to keep drug suspects off the road pending the results and eight more arrests have been made in the intervening period;

Mother was eight times the legal limit

Nicole Wheatley, 30, was eight times the drink-driving limit

A mother who was caught exceeding the drink-driving limit eight times complained that she would struggle to complete the school run after being banned from driving.

Nicole Wheatley, 30, failed a drug test when police were called to a home following an incident involving her ex-partner.

An investigation showed that the hairdresser had previously driven her BMW under the influence of benzoylecgonine – a breakdown product of cocaine – to her partner’s house in Crewe.

Tests showed she was nearly eight times the legal limit.

Wheatley, who admitted to driving under the influence of drugs, appeared before Crewe magistrates last week complaining about her year-long driving ban for ‘unknowingly’ breaking the law.

Her lawyer said she had taken her two disabled children to school and there was no public transport.

Magistrates rejected her plea and fined her £120 with £168 in costs.

  • Some police chiefs tell officers to focus on drunk driving instead because of forensic backlogs and cost issues;
  • The lab delays have caused some forces to cancel enforcement campaigns;

Prison spared after killing pedestrian

Smitten: Jason Imi with his wife Sarah

Smitten: Jason Imi with his wife Sarah

A police officer’s son escaped prison after killing two pedestrians while high on cannabis.

Max Coopey was over the drug-driving limit when he ran into Jason Imi and John Shackley, who were fatally injured walking back from a work dinner on Aug. 2, 2018.

But despite driving under the influence of cannabis, the then 17-year-old Coopey was spared prison. Less than a year later, he was caught hiding 126g of herbal cannabis and 2g of cannabis resin worth up to £1,000 in the bedroom of his parents’ £1million home in Ascot, Berkshire.

Difficult Teen: Max Coopery

Difficult Teen: Max Coopery

But magistrates decided against jailing him, instead fined him £300 for possession after his lawyer claimed he was ‘self-medicating’ in the aftermath of the crash.

At the hearing last year, defense attorney Chloe Hill described the son of two retired Scotland Yard officers as a “misbehaving and troublesome teenager” but said he was now on the right track to university. But in February this year, Coopey appeared before magistrates for a third time because he “deliberately” failed to take a blood test to determine whether he was driving under the influence of drugs.

He was found with cannabis and ‘burner phones’ which the Reading Court heard he acted to fund his own drug use.

The 21-year-old was sentenced to 18 months community service.

  • Police are considering charging convicted motorists the average £500 bill to process their test.

Chiefs are calling for tougher penalties and say the scale of the problem is being concealed as officers are prevented from testing for drugs and alcohol.

Justice Department figures show that after six years of rising prosecutions, drug use cases have fallen by 36 percent – ​​from 27,962 in 2021 to 17,835 last year.

At the same time, police are taking more drunk drivers to court, with prosecutions up 16 percent since 2020 to 33,099 cases last year.

But the NPCC report produced after the first formal national operation to tackle drink-driving concluded that it is ‘more prevalent in the UK than drink-driving’.

It warns: ‘Police authorities have indicated that the sentencing is not strict enough, for example if a higher dose of drugs is found in the driver’s sample, the sentence rarely differs from a standard 12-month ban.

“Troops have also stated that when they have filed both charges with magistrates (alcohol and drugs), the sentence will still not be increased. This results in forced testing drivers for either drugs or alcohol, not both. This leads to unreliable and biased results and prevents a true reflection of this problem from being identified across the country.”

The document describes in detail the ‘challenges that stand in the way of enforcement activities in the field of drunk driving’.

During last year’s six-week national crackdown — dubbed Operation Limit — arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs rose 18 percent, with 6,130 drivers caught compared to 5,186 in the same period in 2021.

On average, 80 motorists were caught with drugs each day during the operation, but some of them may never be charged. Those who fail a roadside drug test must have their blood taken by a ‘care provider’.

But it can take hours for staff to be available, by which time the drugs may have left the driver’s system. Even if a sample is taken on time, the report shows it will take “at least four to five months” for the blood tests to come back.

The backlog means some drivers are months on the road after testing positive for drugs and results may come too late for prosecution within the six-month time limit for cases heard in magistrates’ courts.

Another point raised in the report is the “significantly higher cost” of blood tests. Experts estimate the bill for processing one at around £500, compared to 20p for a simple roadside breath test for alcohol. Police are now asking the Home Office to consider forcing convicted motorists to pay.

Ean Lewin of DTec International, which provides roadside drug testing to all armed forces, said: ‘This report highlights the growing risk of drug drivers and how specialist road police officers need a more efficient and speedy prosecution system.

“More specialist agents are needed, faster saliva confirmation for cannabis and cocaine can be taken at the roadside, processed in the lab and completed in days. This would mean a trial next week.”

An NPCC spokesman said: ‘There is a cost associated with forensic analysis for this crime, like many others, and in recent years there has been pressure on the available analytical capacity of the police forces, which has caused some delays.

“However, the positive and proactive engagement between the NPCC and analytics providers has put us in a position where there is significant capacity available.”

Speeding motorist high on cocaine hit six-year-old girl

Perpetrator: John Owen

Perpetrator: John Owen

The mother of a six-year-old girl killed by a speeding motorist while under the influence of a cocktail of drugs and booze has vowed to fight for justice after serving just six years in prison.

John Stephen Owen, 46, was almost twice the limit for drink and drug driving after taking cocaine when he lost control of his car, pulled over to the other side of the road and hit the curb, hitting Sharlotte Naglis.

Sharlotte, walking home with her father, died instantly in the accident in North Staffordshire in June 2021. During his sentencing in October, Owen was found to have previously committed an offence.

He was driving about 48 mph in a 30 mph zone and was on his phone just before the crash. Owen apologized for her death, but said he could not remember anything due to brain damage caused by the collision.

Victim: Sharlotte Naglis

Victim: Sharlotte Naglis

He was jailed for six years and two months and banned from driving for eight years after pleading guilty to dangerous driving. Judge Paul Glenn told him, “You killed an innocent six-year-old child shortly before impact by speeding, 48 mph in a 30 mph limit. You lost control of your car while under the influence of alcohol and cocaine. In any case, almost double the permitted limit.’

The victim’s mother, Claire Reynolds, 37, was disgusted by the verdict and walked out of court in a rage. She said, ‘It’s an insult. He won’t even serve half of Sharlotte’s life.’

Her MP appealed the revision of the sentence as ‘unnecessarily lenient’, but this was rejected. In November, Mrs. Reynolds vowed to fight on.