There have been various reports this festive season of police forces offering rewards to people who successfully inform on drink-drive offenders. Let me make it quite clear that I do not condone lawbreaking, but, whatever the offence, the principle of “the end justifies the means” to secure convictions is never acceptable. And, as Longrider points out here, getting children, relatives, friends and neighbours to inform on people has always been a staple tactic of totalitarian regimes. It is fundamentally un-British. Even the Campaign Against Drink Driving have their reservations.
It’s also not quite as easy as you might think. You might imagine you’ll see drink-drivers in any pub with a car park. But, if you are prepared to sit there for a prolonged period, assess the means of transport of every arrival, tick off how much they drink, make a judgment as to when they’re over the limit, establish the registration number of their car, work out in which direction they’re heading, and then inform the police, then I wish you luck. A few years ago, one police force announced they were allocating officers to act as decoy courting couples in rural pubs to spot offenders. But I’d wager the results were pretty meagre.
In reality, the only way such schemes will work is if people are aware of a persistent pattern of behaviour by individuals they know well. And, if you are a true friend or a caring relative, surely you will make your best efforts to deter the individual concerned from breaking the law before actually shopping them. The most likely outcome is simply that it will encourage people to pursue personal grudges and vendettas.
And, if the rewards are sufficiently high, it could even lead people to act as agent provocateur by egging drivers on to drink more.