21 Oct 2015

Faulty breathalysers 'a huge problem'

10:18 am on 21 October 2015

A criminal lawyer says the ramifications from faulty breath testers, which forced police to drop infringement proceedings after using the machines for months, will be huge.

Police introduced the Draeger 7510 breathalysers in July, but have pulled them all from service after discovering some results were inaccurate.

National manager of road policing Steve Greally said the machines have been recalled until further notice and said any charges or infringement proceedings linked to them will be dropped. So far, about 80 people were affected.

Police would contact anyone whose ticket or conviction would be waived as a result of the error, he said.

Have you been affected by a faulty breath testing device? Email us at iwitness@radionz.co.nz

The devices were sold worldwide, but Draegar New Zealand spokesperson Barry Hill said the problem had only arisen in New Zealand.

The German manufacturer of a faulty breathalyser said it would take several days to establish what was wrong with the machines.

In a statement, Draeger Safety Pacific said it was working closely with the New Zealand police to pinpoint the problem and had sent a number of breathalysers to Germany for further analysis.

Of 343 machines tested so far, 49 had failed, Mr Greally said.

Criminal lawyer and traffic law expert at Albion Chambers Steve Cullen told Morning Report the justice system relied on the technology being accurate and the ramifications were huge.

"When people lose their licenses it's not a trivial thing. It can have drastic impacts for people," Mr Cullen said.

"People can find their jobs are in jeopardy, their families come under pressure - all sorts of difficulties when you lose a license.

"It's not a good situation, it shouldn't have happened and it certainly shouldn't of gone on for so long."

Mr Greally told Morning Report police needed to have the devices working well so they could be relied on in court.

"People need to be reassured that if they've been ticketed, those tickets will be reversed. If they have been prosecuted as a result of this unreliable data, they will be withdrawn." he said.

"We will have to attack that on a case-by-case basis as people have different circumstances, as you can appreciate."