Man too drunk to give breath test in Spalding ‘should not have been cleared’
A drink driver was wrongly cleared of failing to give police a breath sample because he was too intoxicated, the High Court has ruled.
Michael Colin Camp (52) had been pulled over by police in Oakley Drive, Spalding, in November 2015 after he was spotted driving erratically.
A roadside breath test gave a reading almost three and a half times the legal alcohol limit.
But when he was asked to again blow into the breathalyser at the police station, Camp was unable to do so and the officer gave up.
She concluded he was “just too drunk” to do as she asked.
Camp was charged with failing to provide a breath specimen, but cleared last February by a magistrate, who said his drunken state was a “reasonable excuse” for his failure.
However, after a challenge at the High Court in London, two senior judges have now ordered Lincoln Magistrates to convict Camp.
Lord Justice Lindblom said an “explanation” for failing to provide a specimen was not necessarily a “reasonable excuse”.
“The fact that voluntary intoxication may sometimes, perhaps often, explain a person’s inability to provide a specimen does not mean that that person will therefore have a ‘reasonable excuse’ for not doing so,” he said in his ruling.
The court heard Camp had to be helped out of his vehicle, showing “obvious signs of drunkenness” and having “wet himself”.
But District Judge Peter Veits, sitting at Lincoln Magistrates’ Court, said the fact he was incapable of providing a specimen meant he had not “wilfully refused” to do so.
The case went before the High Court in November last year in an appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, against the acquittal.
Lawyers argued that there were “strong policy reasons for not permitting a motorist who is under the influence of alcohol to be able to rely on the defence of reasonable excuse”.
Allowing the appeal and ordering a conviction, Lord Justice Lindblom said the excuse given was not “reasonable”.
The case was sent back to the magistrates’ court with a direction to convict.