Blake Lapthorn, one of the leading law firms in the UK, is pleased to announce that its Motoring Offences team has acted for P who was charged by Thames Valley Police with failing to provide a specimen of breath for analysis when required to do so.
The team was instructed soon after P was charged with the offence. P maintained that when he was taken to the police station and told that he had to provide two specimens of breath, he tried his best but was only able to provide one. He took issue with the way the officer had required him to blow into the device and argued that the officer asked him to blow into the device for too long, thus his attempts failed.
The officer who conducted the procedure was required to give evidence in the case. When he was questioned about the instructions that he had given, the officer admitted that it was his usual practice for suspects to blow for such a period that 80% of the stars, which appear on the device, became illuminated. This is far too long and is actually at odds with the instructions given by the manufacturer.
After the officer had finished giving his evidence, the Crown Prosecution Service sought a brief adjournment to speak to their device expert about what the officer had said. The expert advised that in light of the officer's evidence about the way he operated the device, there was no realistic prospect of conviction and the case was dropped. The case against P was then dismissed and the court ordered that his costs be payable from Central Funds. P left court with his good character intact as well as his entitlement to drive in place.
If found guilty, he would have lost his licence for a period of at least one year (probably far longer) and would also have had to have paid a considerable fine. Moreover, he would have been treated as a 'high risk offender', which means that when he applied for his licence to be returned to him, he would have to take a medical examination to satisfy the Driver's Medical Department at DVLA that he was not, or at least no longer, dependent on alcohol.
This case has important implications for those charged with offences of failing to provide a specimen for breath in the Oxford / Thames Valley area. The officer in question is an experienced police officer who has been involved in many prosecutions against motorists. If this is how the officer conducted the procedure in this case then there is a real risk that he has conducted other breath tests in the same, incorrect, manner. Furthermore, if the officer has been trained recently, then we are concerned that other officers operating in the Thames Valley may be making the same crucial and fundamental mistakes.
This case serves to highlight the importance of obtaining specialist advice at the very start of proceedings. Even in cases where the evidence appears to be strong at first sight, an expert eye is still needed to analyse that evidence and ensure that the prosecution case really is made out on all the facts.