Friday, January 26, 2007

Burp overturns ban

A motorist has had a 12-month drink-drive ban overturned after he successfully argued that his breath test reading was affected by burping. O Sang Ng was banned for 12 months after admitting the offence to Basingstoke magistrates last year.

But the 46-year-old from Winchester, Hants, appealed saying the intoximeter reading was affected by a burp.

A High Court judge ruled that a belch can be a "special reason" for not disqualifying a driver.

O Sang Ng, of Hambledon Close, was fined £130 last January after admitting driving with excess alcohol. He had been stopped while driving his Ford Escort in Andover Road, Winchester. The breath test revealed 53 mcg of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath. The legal limit is 35mcg.

In April, he tried to argue that the reading was artificially inflated by an eructation - or burp - but District Judge Gillian Babington-Browne ruled the belch was "connected to the offender and not the offence" and was not a "special reason" to overturn his driving ban.

At a later court hearing, the disqualification was suspended pending a High Court Appeal. Allowing O Sang Ng's appeal, Mr Justice Owen said the district judge had erred in law.

"I am satisfied that in this case the evidence upon which the appellant sought to rely before the district judge was directly connected to the offence," he said.

The disqualification was set aside and the case was sent back to magistrates for reconsideration.

After the case, O Sang Ng's barrister Mary Aspinall-Miles explained that a burp "may" elevate a breath alcohol reading for a specimen sample as it was effectively a concentrated gas bubble from the stomach.

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