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Drunk driver's road ban, €2,000 fine confirmed on appeal

The Court of Criminal Appeal has confirmed a €2,000 fine and six-month driving ban that had been handed to a drunk driver in Gozo

matthew_agius
Matthew Agius
8 August 2017, 4:23pm
The accused had been found to have a blood alcohol level of 0.7g/l
The accused had been found to have a blood alcohol level of 0.7g/l
The Court of Criminal Appeal has confirmed a €2,000 fine and six-month driving ban that had been handed to a drunk driver in Gozo.

30-year-old Jonathan Pace had been arrested on 7 February 2016 at around 2:45am in Triq ta’ Taħt Putirjal, Victoria, Gozo, after police officers who had been setting up a roadblock pulled over the man's Peugeot for driving the wrong way up a one way street. Smelling alcohol on Pace's breath, the officers administered a series of breathalyser tests, eventually establishing that he had a blood alcohol level of 0.7g/l. The legal alcohol limit for driving in Malta is 0.5g/l following a recent reform, having previously been 0.8g/l, among the highest in Europe.

In March last year, a court of magistrates had found him guilty of drunk driving and fined him €2,000, as well as banning him from the roads for six months.

Pace subsequently filed an appeal, arguing that the prosecution was unable to confirm that the breathalyser equipment used was a model specifically approved by law and that only one result – the only positive one – of several tests conducted at the scene had been exhibited in court. Pace also argued that the punishment had been excessive.

Chief Justice Silvio Camilleri, presiding the Court of Criminal Appeal began by observing that the printout of the test results had been made by a breathalyser of the “Alcovisor-Jupiter” model, which was specifically approved by law. The other results had been discarded because, as police witnesses had testified, the other tests had all been incorrect as the accused had not blown enough air through the machine.

With regards to the alleged excessive punishment, the Court of Appeal pointed out that it was an established principle that appellate courts do not disturb the courts of first instance's reasoning about punishment unless there are grave reasons to do so. Such reasons were absent in this case, the court held.

It also observed that the accused had claimed that people were throwing drinks around at the party he had just left and that this had contributed to the smell of alcohol on his person, dismissing this argument as highly unlikely. Pace's comportment and evasiveness on the witness stand also led the court to conclude that he was not telling the truth.

The appeal was dismissed, the original sentence confirmed and the driving ban ordered to begin the next day.

matthew_agius
Court reporter Matthew Agius is a Legal Procurator and Commissioner for Oaths. Prior to re...