15 January 2014
Rehman Chishti, MP for Gillingham and Rainham, has been given a prestigious national award for his work vigorously campaigning for tougher penalties for repeat drink drivers and other offenders who endanger lives on our roads.
Rehman received the 'Parliamentarian of the Year: National Campaigner' award at road safety charity Brake's annual reception at the Houses of Parliament last night, sponsored by Direct Line Group (photo attached).
Since being elected to office, Rehman has spearheaded a number of campaigns aimed at tackling persistent and extreme driving offenders who risk causing horrific crashes. He has used his experience as a lawyer to identify and push for changes to the way these drivers are dealt with to help reduce reoffending.
In July 2013 he tabled a Drink Driving (Repeat Offenders) Bill, calling for drink drivers to receive a prison sentence of up to two years if convicted for a third time or more. Currently the maximum sentence a drink driver can receive, unless they cause a death or serious injury, is six months in prison, no matter how many times they offend. He met with the road safety and justice ministers to ask for their support and spoke out in the media, appearing on BBC News, BBC London and BBC Radio Kent to argue for the Bill.
In September, in response to annual figures showing a 17% rise in drink drive deaths, Rehman wrote a passionate letter to The Times arguing the courts need more powers to tackle persistent drink drivers, which would be addressed by his Bill.
In December, Rehman tabled two more Bills on disqualified drivers. The first calls for drivers who receive a third offence for driving when disqualified to be referred to crown court and receive a sentence of up to two years. The second calls for the maximum custodial penalty for causing death by driving while disqualified to increase from two to 14 years' imprisonment, in line with the penalty for causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by driving under the influence of drink or drugs.
Rehman was able to secure a Westminster Hall Debate on road safety on 10 December 2013, where he spoke passionately about the importance of road safety and the Bills he had proposed. He asked the road safety minister to consider other initiatives to tackle drink driving and repeat offenders, such as in-vehicle 'alcohol-lock' systems for repeat drink drivers, already used in other EU countries, and lowering the threshold for entry into the high-risk offender rehabilitation scheme for high-end and repeat drink drivers.
The minister welcomed the debate, stating his belief that "even one death on roads is too many", and that the Department for Transport and Ministry of Justice will work together to consider a review of sentences and penalties for these types of offences.
Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, the road safety charity, said: "Rehman's campaign is a critical one if we are to successfully tackle devastating and needless road deaths and injuries. Drivers who repeatedly take appalling risks like drink driving, and ignore driving bans, are a menace and all too often their actions result in deaths or life-changing injuries that cause enormous suffering. It's vital we have the laws in place to enable these deadly drivers to be dealt with effectively, to prevent reoffending and to act as a strong deterrent, as well as ensuring justice is done. We will continue to work with Rehman in 2014, to urge the Ministry of Justice and Department of Transport to ensure we have suitably tough charges and penalties to deal with life-threatening behaviour on our roads."
Rehman said: "It has been a real privilege and pleasure to work with Brake, who do such an amazing job in working with government and departmental agencies to make our roads a safer place for all. I am very honoured to have been awarded this prestigious Parliamentarian of the Year award, as there were many other fantastic candidates. I will continue to passionately work on tackling drink driving and driving while disqualified."
Brake is an independent road safety charity. Brake exists to stop the five deaths and 63 serious injuries that happen on UK roads every day and to care for families bereaved and seriously injured in road crashes. Brake runs awareness-raising campaigns, community education programmes, events such as Road Safety Week (17-23 November 2014), and a Fleet Safety Forum, providing advice to companies. Brake's support division cares for road crash victims through a helpline and other services.
Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.
Direct Line Insurance Group plc
Direct Line Insurance Group plc (Direct Line Group) is headquartered in Bromley, Kent; it has operations in the UK, Germany and Italy.
Through its number of well known brands Direct Line Group offers a wide range of general insurance products to consumers. These brands include; Direct Line, Churchill and Privilege. It also offers insurance services for third party brands through its Partnerships division. In the commercial sector, its NIG and Direct Line for Business operations provide insurance products for businesses via brokers or direct respectively.
In addition to insurance services, Direct Line Group continues to provide support and reassurance to millions of UK motorists through its Green Flag breakdown recovery service and TRACKER stolen vehicle recovery and telematics business.