The hon. Member raises a good point. One of the difficulties the Minister has in replying to this debate is that, as a Transport Minister, she will only be able to speak on behalf of the Department for Transport. However, this issue stretches across the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice. The 11 months that Tom’s family had to wait for justice is far too long. That is because of pressures on the court service and the police. As much as I would love to put the responsibility on the Minister herself, it is the responsibility of other Departments. We need to see a joined-up approach to make this work.
Release under investigation is a particular problem that is delaying justice. It is delaying justice in cases like this and in many others. That is why the police and the authorities can attach those bail conditions to individuals. If someone is released under investigation for something that happens many times in the future, there are no such bail conditions attached to a release under investigation status. Therefore, the provisions that exist in law, quite correctly, to limit the behaviour of an individual—in this case, probably to ensure that another crime is not committed in that way—do not apply.
From my interpretation, that is effectively why Tom’s law is seeking to backfill and repair some of the legal fabric that has been changed by release under investigation. If the suspect in this case were bailed, I suspect those bail conditions would have been attached. That is one of the difficulties we have in this case. I hope that the Minister will agree to meet the family to discuss this, but I would also be grateful if she would put in a good case for a meeting with the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice. I think there is a cross-Government approach that needs to be adopted here.
I mentioned the short sentence. I, too, welcome the increase in the tariff in the sentencing for those people who kill via drink-driving from 14 years to life. However, that did not apply in this case, and I think it is entirely legitimate for any family who have been robbed of the life of their loved one to look at the sentence that has been afforded and say, “Three months and three weeks is not justice.” I have sympathy with the family for the way in which they seek to pursue that aim through the courts, and now through politics as well. My hon. Friend the Member for Neath mentioned one of the remarks of the judge in this case: that “the surest thing” was that the offender would have to live with the consequences. No, the surest thing is that the family will have to live with the consequences for much longer, and with a much deeper sense of pain and loss, than the offender. That is why there is a real difficulty in relation to this issue.
My hon. Friend echoed the words of the family: driving is a privilege, not a right. One of the questions that we must ask ourselves in this place is, “To what extent does that privilege apply where a vehicle has been used to either kill or maim someone and the driver has been under the influence of drugs or alcohol?” At that point, it is reasonable for us as Parliament to take a view as to whether there should be a legal ability to prevent that person from driving. Indeed, to a certain extent, we have already taken that view: long before I or my neighbour, the hon. Member for Plymouth, Moor View, was in this place, Parliament passed legislation that put bail conditions on those individuals. There is precedent here, but that view has not been applied to release under investigation in the same way, so there is a sound argument for looking at whether RUI has changed the social contract—the deal—between the state and victims as to what applies in the event of someone being maimed or seriously hurt when a driver has been under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It is important to look at that issue.
The challenge in this debate is not only how we can remember Tom, and give the family who have campaigned so thoroughly, professionally and compassionately in his memory the justice that the courts, through the low-bar sentencing, did not deliver. The challenge is also how we can we prevent this from happening in future. The responsibility and obligation that falls on parliamentarians is to ensure that no other family goes through what Tom’s family have gone through. The hon. Member for Plymouth, Moor View has been pursuing that aim with the family for some time, and I act as his assistant in this respect to support the measures he has taken.
I would, however, like to add some words of caution. I am concerned that if we give extra responsibilities to the police or the courts system without adequately resourcing them, justice could be further delayed. If steps are to be taken, I would like them to be accompanied by the proper resources, to ensure that doing so does not elongate the process in relation to any cases and that we continue to reinforce the primacy of the courts in this matter. The ability of the police themselves to deliver restrictions on the kerbside or from the point of charge should always be tempered by the ability of a court to judge the person involved. Drink and drug-driving is one of those offences that is peculiar among cases in the criminal justice system, in that the courts see people from every single walk of life. It is important that when applications are put in, everyone can have justice when their cases are heard, but most importantly, that the victims and their families in those cases can have justice at the same time.
I would be grateful if the Minister could look at some of those aspects of this issue. I appreciate that, as a Minister in the Department for Transport, many of the aspects I have raised are not her responsibility. However, there is a need to join up with the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice to ensure that the right questions are being asked of the competent Departments in relation to this issue, so that Tom’s family can truly have justice and the likelihood of something like this happening again can be reduced.