Rugby Union

Cipriani drink-drive case should be thrown out

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England international Danny Cipriani's trial for drink-driving is on the brink of collapse after his defence argued the case should be thrown out because of a lack of evidence.

The 28-year-old is accused of being so drunk his eyes were "glazed", he slurred his words and could not stand straight after he crashed his Mercedes into a taxi at 5.15am on June 1 last year.

The Sale fly-half, who has agreed a move to Wasps, was breathalysed after the crash in Imperial Road, Fulham, and found to have 67 micrograms of alcohol in 100ml of breath - twice the drink-drive limit - the court heard.

But Philip Lucas, defending, told London's Westminster Magistrates' Court there is not "sufficient" evidence the breathalyser test in the police station was working properly.

Lucas has represented a string of celebrities in nearly identical cases and is well known for launching thorough defence cases focusing on legal loopholes or allegations of problems with breathalysing machines.

Making a halftime application to dismiss the case, Lucas said there was not enough evidence that the machine Sergeant Marc Pullen tested Cipriani on was calibrated properly.

He said: "This is as plain a case that there can be that the officer has not said enough to put before the court proper evidence of calibration.

"The evidence simply was there was a reading at 7.30am and 7.33am and that the lower reading was 67."

Lucas added: "The reference to it (the breathalyser machine) working properly is a reference to the breath alcohol readings being within 15 per cent of one another.

"At no stage has the officer said that in reference to all the readings that the machine was working at the time.

"We can't tell by the reference to some of the readings that the machine was reliable."

Prosecutor Katie Weiss contested the application, insisting the court had enough evidence the machine was working properly to continue the case.

She said: "The sergeant certainly did give sufficient evidence in relation to the workings of that machine.

"It was quite clear the machine was working, it was quite clear that the way he could tell the machine was working was correct."

The twist in the court case came after both the prosecutor and Senior District Judge Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle raised concerns that legal proceedings were being filibustered and the case "derailed".

The case was initially meant to finish on Monday but proceedings were delayed after Lucas made lengthy submissions about the disclosure of evidence.

And the case, if it continues, will enter a third day after expert witnesses did not attend the first day of trial, despite the court's expectation they would.

In tense legal discussions on Monday, District Judge Riddle criticised the "unnecessarily complicated" legal submissions on disclosure made by Lucas.

The District Judge said: "The argument is extremely technical, he has taken me to some of the cases, correspondence between the parties, and I say immediately that argument is unnecessarily complicated, it has no place in a summary trial, it causes the real damage and real danger that the sight of the proper issues in this case will be lost."

He added: "Much of the argument heard today is in effect an attack on the integrity of the prosecution in this particular case which in my view is unjustified."

Explaining that he expected the expert witnesses to attend court, he added: "The court has made it clear that if you wanted these witnesses to give evidence that they need to be here. I am not interested in subterfuge."

And he warned the case appeared to be to some extent being "derailed".

Speaking before the half-time application to dismiss the charges, Weiss raised concerns the case was being delayed and was costing the taxpayer money.

If the case is not thrown out then it will overrun into a third day of evidence, and because the court is very busy it may be as late as May or June for the case to be concluded.

The district judge managed to find a date on April 29 but Cipriani said he could not do it because he had his last match of the season that evening in Manchester.

Lucas told the judge his client had to be "in a correct frame of mind to play the game".

Weiss said: "There just seems to be delay after delay and I am very concerned, obviously."

District Judge Riddle replied: "Yes, you and me both. Thank-you for making the point.

"If control has been lost of the court I'm afraid that's my responsibility."

The case was adjourned until 2pm on Friday when the district judge will give his ruling.

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