‘I should have been convicted’

2010-05-22 00:00

A PIETERMARITZBURG man who confesses to being “as guilty as sin’’ said he was acquitted of a drunken driving charge because of the incompetence of officials … and he is outraged.

Bradley Lloyd got off his charges in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court on May 14. Unlike other drivers, who would be pleased with the outcome of the trial, Lloyd said he was surprised to be acquitted as he was “as guilty as sin”.

“I was drunk,” he said. “I had four quarts of beer before getting into my car, and my blood alcohol level was two-and-a half-times over the legal limit.”

According to Lloyd, on December 8, 2009, he had spent the evening drinking and playing pool at the Thistle Hotel in Boshoff Street. On his way home, he was stopped by a Road Traffic Inspectorate (RTI) officer at the KFC on Chief Albert Luthuli Street after officers noticed he displayed signs of drunkenness.

“The officers made too many mistakes, and that’s how I got off,” said Lloyd.

He said discrepancies in the officers’ statements made the state’s case against him weak. “They were meant to go through a checklist, take down my personal information and ask questions about my state of mind at the time,” said Lloyd.

Documentation of the incident shows that details were recorded incorrectly. Time disparities and incomplete forms helped Lloyd convince the magistrate to dismiss his case. The court’s major grievance with the state’s evidence against Lloyd was the fact that the breathalyser that was used had not been calibrated correctly.

“That is really why I got off, because the breathalyser wasn’t calibrated properly,” said Lloyd. “It made the reading unreliable, even though I really was drunk. I got off without the help of a lawyer. There were so many mistakes that I just represented myself.”

Lloyd said that had the officers completed their tasks properly, he would have a criminal record and would face a hefty fine.

“There are some people who cause serious harm by being drunk and driving, and they get off because of traffic cop’s mistakes,” he added.

“That is the real problem, [hip hop star] Jub Jub will walk because of things like this,” he added.

A contact at the RTI confirmed it is aware of the situation and that an investigation is under way to determine why half-hearted measures were taken against Lloyd on the night in question.

CARO Smit of South Africans Against Drunk Driving (SADD) said that while the discrepancies in Bradley Lloyd’s arrest are unacceptable, the Road Traffic Inspectorate generally does “wonderful work in keeping drunk drivers off the road”.

She said magistrates should be aware of the way in which breathalysers are calibrated.

Smit said Lloyd’s breathalyser was correctly calibrated because Draeger devices (the type used to test Lloyd) are “extremely accurate machines”.

“It is frightening that these things happen, as Pietermaritzburg has one of the best alcohol evidence centres in the country,” she said.

Smit also commended Lloyd for speaking candidly about his experience.

“We need buy-in from the public,” she said. “People can contact SADD to report traffic officers who have not fulfilled their duties and we will take it up with the relevant authorities on their behalf.”

Smit said that taking into account Lloyd’s alcohol consumption that night, he was 10 times more likely to have been involved in an accident than if he had been driving sober.

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