Drink-drivers benefiting from testing loophole?

Date: Tuesday 10th October 2017

MOTORISTS suspected of drink-driving in Eden are being taken to Carlisle for a breath test — with the time and distance involved running the risk of their alcohol levels dropping during the journey, it has been claimed.

The issue came to light after a cyclist told the Herald he was knocked off his bike in a collision with a car in Penrith.

Police told him the driver involved failed a preliminary roadside breath test. However, by the time the suspect was taken by police to Carlisle 20 miles away for a second “evidential” breath test on an intoximeter machine, the reading had fallen to below a level at which a driver would be prosecuted.

The cyclist involved, Tom Bell, claimed that the lack of testing facilities in Eden could help drink-drivers in cases where readings were on the borders of being prosecutable.

“This could cause real problems in East Cumbria,” said Mr. Bell, aged 49. “Penrith is one of the largest, most rural postcode areas in the whole country and this seems to allow drink-driving at the extremities of the patch.

“If drivers are taken to Hunter Lane they’re bang to rights, but if you take them all the way to Carlisle it’s almost a licence to get away with it. Is this a rural police service serving a massive rural area or not?”

He said the collision broke his cycling helmet, buckled his wheels and left him needing painkillers.

Mr. Bell has taken the police to task over the absence of testing facilities in Penrith. The issue has come to light against a backdrop of services at Hunter Lane being reduced over the last several years.

A Cumbria police spokesman confirmed that the custody facilities at Hunter Lane are “not often used”, except for during an event like Appleby horse fair.

The town centre station is open part-time, between 9am and 1pm Monday to Saturday but closed on Sunday, and fears have been expressed that it is being downgraded for closure. A force spokesman said the reduction in opening hours at Hunter Lane had been widely publicised in the past.