Northumbria Police clamping down on drink and drug driving this Christmas

01 Dec 2016 11:00 AM

Rachel Docherty [View Full Size]

Northumbria Police's Op Dragoon team are leading a clampdown on drink and drug driving as part of a Christmas awareness campaign.

The month-long campaign led by Road Safety GB North East’s (RSGB NE) will span the entire month of December and see officers across the force proactively target motorists suspected of driving under the influence.

Grieving mother Rachel Docherty is backing the campaign after losing her own teenage son in a devastating car smash earlier this year.

The mother-of-five hopes she can reduce road casualties by sharing what she had to go through after the death of her 17-year-old son James Docherty.

She has joined police in urging people to leave their car keys at home if going out drinking this festive period, and to plan lifts home.

James, known affectionately as Jamesey Boy to his family, had just enjoyed his first ever night out in Newcastle city centre and was making his way home to Gateshead as a passenger in his friend’s car. However, he never made it back.

His friend Tyrone Quinn lost control of the BMW, causing it to clip the curb and flip, before landing on its roof near Askew Road in Gateshead, near the Redheugh Bridge. James suffered massive head injuries and died at the scene.

“I will never forget the moment the police knocked on the door to tell me James had died – life changed at that moment,” said Rachel, from Felling, Gateshead. “I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t want to accept it was true.”

She added: “James looked lovely before he went out that night, all dressed up, and I remember feeling really proud. Now I just feel pain.

“If you are thinking of drinking or taking drugs and then getting behind the wheel of a car – think again. You may have done it before and been fine, but it only takes once. No mother should have to bury their child. James should have turned 18 in September, but instead of celebrating we visited the cemetery. It’s been devastating.”

Rachel, 33, added: “James was 17 and had his whole life ahead of him. He was the eldest of five children, with younger brothers and sisters he doted on. His baby brother Thomas was just three months old and will never know him. That is so sad. He did not need to die that day.

“I don’t think I will ever be able to accept that he won’t walk through the door again.”

Quinn, 20, also of Felling, Gateshead, was jailed for six years after pleading guilty to causing the death of James by dangerous driving while disqualified, causing death by driving while uninsured, driving with excess alcohol and being over the limit for drugs.

The court heard when he smashed the powerful BMW he had been drinking alcohol and was more than three times over the drug drive limit for cocaine.

None of the five occupants were wearing seatbelts. The car was picked up on CCTV being driven erratically and at speed on the lead up to the crash. You can view the CCTV footage here

Northumbria Police Motor Patrols Chief Inspector Dave Guthrie said: "Drink and drug driving destroys lives and James Docherty's family have been torn apart because of an incident that should never be allowed to happen.

"They will be receiving no comfort from the fact that Tyrone Quinn is now behind bars but they have been incredibly brave and now want to help other motorists understand the devastating consequences of drink and drug driving.

"We work with partners to run a drink and drug driving campaign every year and the reason we really focus on it in December is because we know people are more likely to try and take a chance and get behind the wheel.

"People may have been at a Christmas party or be enjoying the festive period and think that a couple of drinks won't affect their ability to drive themselves home. Those people are wrong. It puts people's lives in danger and there is no excuse for it.

"Our Op Dragoon team will be joined by motor patrols and response officers across the force this month to catch those who take that chance and put them before the court before they cause a collision that claims another life."

Paul Watson, Chairman of RSGB NE, said: “It’s very easy to go out with the intention of only having one drink, but during the Christmas festivities there is a tendency to get carried away and that’s where accidents happen.

“We don’t want to stop people having a good time – we just want people to be safe. James’ story is tragic – his life lost and so many other lives ruined simply because one person thought he was a great driver, even when under the influence. He was proved very wrong. We hope people make better decisions than he did that night.”

If anyone suspects a person of driving under the influence of drink or drugs then they should contact the Op Dragoon team by calling police on 101