Penny Lancaster has said that her first arrest as a special constable for City of London Police was a drug-driving suspect.
The former model and wife of musician Sir Rod Stewart began working as a special constable last year, after completing training. She had previously taken part in a reality TV show called Famous and Fighting Crime, which involved celebrities joining officers on the beat.
Lancaster, 50, told BBC’s Crimewatch Live programme that she had been on patrol with two officers when they stopped a car with two people inside. The driver was given a roadside drugs test, which came back positive for cannabis. Lancaster was then asked to caution the driver under suspicion of driving under the influence.
She admitted that she had a moment of stage fright after being “given the wink and the nod” to make the arrest, though her training quickly kicked in.
Legislation introduced in 2015 allows police forces to use a mouth swab and a portable drug analyser — dubbed a “drugalyser” — not much bigger than a pen.
The police can stop drivers and ask them to do a ‘field impairment assessment’, involving a series of tests such as walking in a straight line, if they think they are under the influence. The roadside drug kit may then be used to screen for cannabis and cocaine. A blood or urine test may then be taken at a police station if there is ground for arrest.
Drug driving results a minimum one-year driving ban, an unlimited fine, up to 6 months in prison and a criminal record. Your driving licence will also show you’ve been convicted of drug driving for 11 years.
Lancaster hit the headlines in June last year after helping persuade someone not to end their life. She had encountered the 19-year-old student while patrolling on London Bridge, and talked with him for an hour with a mental health nurse until they felt confident he could go home.
“That was really rewarding,” she told Gabby Logan’s The Mid Point podcast.
Despite having completed her training to be a special constable, being a mother is the best qualification for her work with the police, Lancaster has claimed, as it gives her the “patience and empathy to deal with teenagers”.
She has said her husband, 77, is supportive of her work as a special constable, though he does worry about her safety. “But with the support I’ve got around me, and letting him know when I’m back at the station … he’s able to go back to sleep,” she said.
In Famous and Fighting Crime, Lancaster appeared alongside Lissie Harper, the widow of PC Andrew Harper of Thames Valley Police, who died after being caught in a strap attached to the back of a car driven by a quad bike thief.
Lissie was campaigning to get the law changed to ensure mandatory life sentences for those who kill emergency workers during a criminal act.
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