Former minister Collin Partap would have breached the law when he declined to submit to a breathalyser test, former Law Association president Dana Seetahal SC said yesterday.
She was referring to the detention of Partap on Sunday morning by officers of the Belmont Police Station. According to police sources, Partap refused to take a breathalyser test after he was found in a Ministry vehicle with a bottle of alcohol in his hand.
He was then detained by police and taken to the Belmont Police Station. Police officers reported that he continued to refuse to take the breathalyser test but submitted more than an hour later following a visit by acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams. Partap was relieved of his portfolio as Minister in Ministry of National Security by the Prime Minister on Sunday night.
Seetahal referred to the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic (Amendment) Act 2007 in her analysis of the reported incident.
She noted that according to Section 70B (1) where a constable has reasonable cause to suspect that a person driving or attempting to drive a motor vehicle has alcohol in his blood exceeding the legal limit he may, according to section (4), "require him to provide a specimen of breath for a breath test at or near the place where the requirement is made". She noted that "reasonable cause" would include if someone is seen with a bottle of liquor in his or her hand.
"So what you are getting from the Act is that there is a certain amount of immediacy, the constable is saying provide your specimen of breath right here, right now at the time, wherever he stopped. But if you do not do it at that time, when required to do so, the Act provides where a person without reasonable excuse fails to provide a specimen of breath he's liable," she said.
Seetahal continued: "So if it is, I don't know the facts, I'm just going by what I heard, some of it is in the newspaper, that this former minister, if he was required to provide that specimen of breath right there on the scene when he was stopped by the police, because they had reasonable cause to suspect that he was above the limit, if he refused then he would fall under the provisions of subsection (5) which means that he would, without reasonable excuse, have failed to provide the specimen of breath as required."
Subsection (5) states that "where a person, without reasonable excuse, fails to provide a specimen of breath under subsection (1)...he is guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine of eight thousand dollars or to imprisonment for three years".
Seetahal noted that the constable can arrest persons and take them into custody without warrant. She also spoke on the report that Partap subsequently submitted to a breathalyser test.
"So if subsequently, he gives it somewhere else, that is assuming the facts, that he was required to do so at the scene and he didn't then that is a breach, because the Act says that if you're required to do it there on the scene then the whole legislation...is premised that you should produce it there, and if you don't produce it there then it follows that you are in breach," she explained.
She said whilst at the police station the person held shall be given an opportunity to provide a specimen of breath with the more complicated "breath analysis" but the breach would still have occurred.
"Whether or not subsequently you give it, I do not see that that subsequent event could affect what went on before," she added.
On the report that Partap underwent the breathalyser test more than an hour after he was detained, a member of road safety non governmental organisation Arrive Alive explained that after an hour the blood alcohol concentration would be reduced due to the liver oxidising alcohol in the blood stream.