The Mercury

Dräger test case accused ‘was drunk’

- Caryn Dolley

CLIFFORD Hendricks, the Cape Town resident at the centre of the Dräger breathalys­er test case, was drinking alcohol in the hours leading up to his arrest last year.

This emerged in the Western Cape High Court yesterdayw­hen a witness, Melissa Lucks, testified during the case to ascertain whether the Dräger breathalys­er was reliable in determinin­g whether or not a motorist had been driving while over the legal alcohol limit.

Lucks was with Hendricks on January 23 last year, in the hours before his arrest.

She said that Hendricks picked her up at her flat where he drank some beer with friends.

He then drove her and a few friends to a beach near Simon’s Town.

Lucks, who was pregnant at the time, testified Hendricks consumed even more alcohol at the beach.

“For me, at that stage, he was drunk,” she said.

Lucks said she asked a friend to drive the group home as she did not think Hendricks would do so safely. She said the friend drove them to Kewtown, where she left her group of friends.

Hendricks, who pleaded not guilty to driving with an excess alcohol concentrat­ion in his breath, denied he had been driving.

It is illegal to drive with a concentrat­ion of more than 0.24mg/1 000ml.

It emerged during previous court proceeding­s that when Hendricks was tested with a Dräger, the device measured the concentrat­ion of alcohol in his breath as 0.95mg/1 000ml, nearly four times the legal limit.

Earlier yesterday, State witness Angelique Botha, an employee of the National Metrology Institute of SA, which calibrates Drägers, admitted the procedures followed when issuing calibratio­n certificat­es for Drägers were flawed.

It emerged the Dräger that had been used to test Hendricks had been calibrated three times.

But after the third time in November last year, the Dräger company had made some changes to the device.

State prosecutor Christenus van der Vijver said: “Surely it’s not advisable once you’ve calibrated the machine that it goes back to Dräger where, for lack of a better word, it’s ‘tampered’ with.”

Defence advocate Derek Mitchell SC put it to Botha that the procedures which led to the issuing of calibratio­n certificat­es were “deficient”.

“It appears that way at point in time,” Botha said.

The case resumes on July 28 for argument.


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