Driver who was too drunk to provide a specimen is finally convicted

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A drink-driver who escaped justice when a judge accepted he was too drunk to provide a breath test has finally been convicted after the decision was overturned following a costly appeal.

Michael Camp, 52, was almost three-and-a-half times over the drink-drive legal limit after being pulled over by police in Spalding, Lincolnshire, in November 2015.

The salesman was wrongly cleared of failing to provide a breath sample to police at the station and allowed to keep on driving after a district judge decided being too intoxicated was a “reasonable excuse”.

But after a challenge at the High Court in London, two senior judges ordered Lincoln Magistrates’ Court to convict Camp.

At a hearing today (Thurs) at Lincoln Magistrates Court, Camp was duly convicted of failing to provide a specimen and was fined £180, ordered to pay £200 costs and a £30 victim surcharge.

He was also disqualified from driving for three years, which will reduce by nine months on successful completion of a drink drive rehabilitation course.

Karen Thompson, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “The CPS referred this case to the Court of Appeal because we firmly believed that voluntary intoxication through alcohol should not constitute a reasonable excuse for failing to provide a sample of breath. We put forward a compelling argument to the Court of Appeal and they have agreed that Mr Camp’s acquittal should not stand.

“Driving when drunk is extremely dangerous and can put lives at risk. For the CPS, prosecuting those who decide to drink and drive is an important way to make our roads safer for everyone.”

Camp, from Milton Keynes, had been pulled over by police in Oakley Drive, Spalding, in November 2015 after he was spotted driving erratically.

He blew a roadside breath test 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 district judge Peter Veits, who said his drunken state was a “reasonable excuse” for his failure.

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 appeal heard Camp had to be helped out of his vehicle, showing “obvious signs of drunkenness” and having “wet himself”.

But District Judge 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 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 Camp.