Motorists in court over 'faulty' drink-drive test

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The Independent Online

More than 300 motorists have begun a test case claiming that the police breathalyser cannot tell the difference between alcohol and antiseptic mouthwash.

More than 300 motorists have begun a test case claiming that the police breathalyser cannot tell the difference between alcohol and antiseptic mouthwash.

Staines magistrates' court was told yesterday that the readings taken on ECIR Intoximeter machines at several police stations in Surrey were faulty. The motorists' lawyers argued their clients had thus been wrongly charged with drink-driving offences. Results may have been due to breath-freshening spray or mouth-wash containing alcohol.

They claim that, if an unusual amount of the alcohol detected comes from the mouth rather than the lungs in a breathalyser test at a police station, a warning light will normally indicate that the reading may be suspect.

In such cases an alternative test - either blood or urine - is done to prevent false readings. With the machines in question, the motorists said, the warning light did not come on and none of the drivers was offered a conclusive blood or urine assessment.

Tests have been done on 41 machines in Staines, Richmond, Woking and Guildford. Others in Reigate and Epsom have yet to be tested.

The case was adjourned until 8 May when four "test cases" will be heard.