A NEW drug driving offence – prompted by an Advertiser campaign – has become law. The Crime and Courts Bill has passed through Parliament and today (Thursday) achieved Royal Assent to become an Act. The penalty for the new offence is a maximum of six months in prison and a fine of up to £5,000, with an automatic driving ban of at least 12 months. It removes the current need for police to prove a substance, such as cocaine or heroin, impaired a person's ability to drive, which is done by outdated balance and coordination tests. Royal Assent is the latest highlight of our Lillian's Law campaign, led by the family of 14-year-old Lillian Groves who was knocked down and killed outside her home in New Addington in June 2010. More than 20,000 people backed the campaign, which called for roadside testing devices, a new offence and a zero-tolerance approach to drug-driving. It also received support from politicians such as Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell, road safety charities and international drugs testing companies. In December 2011 Prime Minister David Cameron at Downing Street promised to revise the law following a meeting with Lillian's family and the Advertiser at Number 10. Last month an expert panel set up by the Department for Transport (DfT), tasked with exploring the implications of the new offence following the meeting, recommended adopting legal limits for substances such as cannabis and cocaine, as well as stricter controls for people who drive under the influence of alcohol and drugs at the same time. The panel also said the new offence should contain thresholds for prescription drugs such as sleeping pills. Lillian's family called for a zero-tolerance policy to cannabis and the panel came close to recommending one, suggesting a limit of 5 micrograms per litre (μg/L) for THC, the active ingredient. "At this concentration," the Wolff Report said, "the risks of involvement in, responsibility for, or injury as a result of a traffic accident when driving under the influence of cannabis are significant compared to a driver who has not consumed cannabis". Lillian was knocked down and killed outside her home in Headley Drive, New Addington, in June 2010 by speeding driver John Page. A half-smoked cannabis joint was found on his dashboard but due to the lack of an equivalent device to the breathalyser, he was not subject to a blood test until nine hours after the incident. The report, led by Dr Kim Wolff, an expert in addiction science from King's College London, supported the family's belief that had Page been screened sooner he may have faced a more serious charge than causing death by careless driving, stressing the time taken to take a blood sample is key to securing a prosecution. Page was sentenced to just eight months. A testing device was approved by the Home Office for use in police stations from January and, the Government says, will be used by the roadside by 2014.
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