Sevenoaks Magistrates’ Court in Kent was the venue for a particularly pleasing acquittal, when I represented a client accused of failing to provide an evidential breath test specimen at Tonbridge police station. My client was seen driving out of a pub car park by two officers in a passing police vehicle. They did an 180 degree turn, in their Skoda, before shooting after my client with sirens sounding, and blue strobes and lights flashing. Notethis, however, there had been nothing wrong with my client’s driving and, despite their assertions he was drunk, their own nurse (employed by Kent Police as a forensic nurse) confirmed that he was “alert”, “orientated” and “fully aware of his surroundings”! The truth of the matter was that he was not drunk but was a man who had, tragically – just a few months before – been diagnosed with diabetes. Although he had drunk a little alcohol that evening their mistaken view that he was drunk was due solely to his understandable anxiety at having been stopped and the fact that, foolishly, he had not eaten anything all day! Put simply he was unwell and disorientated as a consequence of diabetes. All of this cut little ice with the officers who, at the police station, insisted that he provide two samples of breath on the Intoximeter machine.
My client was then given conflicting information by one of the officers who told him on a number of occasions that it was his right not to provide. Meanwhile, her male colleague was telling him that he had to provide or he’d be prosecuted for failing to provide! Farcically at one point a police inspector, in plain clothes and without anything to do with the investigation, chose to interrupt the whole procedure for no particular reason whatever! My client, who wasn’t allowed a glass of water during the procedure, was confused and bewildered by the whole thing and, though he’d offered to provide blood, this offer was declined.
The Magistrates’, having heard evidence from the police and my client, quite properly acquitted him after what had been a hard-fought trial. They agreed that the whole procedure had been confusing and, therefore, my client had a “reasonable excuse” for failing to provide.
MORALS OF THE STORY!
Events inside the intoximeter rooms of police stations now seem to be recorded on CCTV; presumably to safeguard the police against malicious complaints. However, the fact that things are now recorded can be of great advantage to the defence. The police are obliged to use a form called the MG DD/A when carrying out a breathalyser procedure at the police station. If they don’t follow that form to the letter then this can lead to an acquittal. However, if a client facing an allegation of drink driving or perhaps failing to provide, simply enters a guilty plea on the basis of the limited information (which is unlikely to include the CCTV evidence) he will receive at the first court date, then he may never discover whether or not, in fact, the police and Crown Prosecution Service had sufficient evidence against him (i.e. whether or not he was guilty as charged!) to prove the case.