Tampering claim fails to convince

A Wanaka man who alleged his blood samples had been ''tampered with'' was fined $1000 after being found guilty of drink-driving following a judge-alone trial before Judge Michael Turner in the Queenstown District Court yesterday.

Kim Paul Gwilliam (55) was stopped by police at a checkpoint on State Highway 84 at Wanaka on December 13 last year.

Senior Sergeant Allan Grindell told the court an initial breath test indicated alcohol was present and a breath-screening test returned a result of more than 400mcg.

Gwilliam was then taken to the Wanaka Police Station, where an evidential breath test provided a reading of 544mcg, but Gwilliam elected a blood sample.

Snr Sgt Grindell said the samples were taken by a doctor, who packaged and prepared them for sending to Environmental Science and Research (ESR).

ESR scientist Noreen McGavin, of Porirua, told Judge Turner the samples arrived on December 18, with labels and paperwork identifying them as belonging to Gwilliam.

However, when the package was opened by an ESR staff member, it was found the identification slips were not ''securely attached'' to the sample bottles and a ''Reject: Loose label'' note was made.

Ms McGavin said standard procedure was for the blood samples to be in a bottle with the cap securely fastened, a ''T-seal'' placed over the cap and around the top of the bottle and the identification label securely attached to that.

Because the identification label had been formed as a ''tube'' and was therefore not securely attached, Ms McGavin said she was unable to provide a certificate under the Land Transport Act following analysis of the blood.

However, under agreement with Police National Headquarters, any samples that had not been contaminated - for example, those that had leaked - were analysed anyway and a statement prepared, rather than a certificate.

Analysis of Gwilliam's blood, which had not congealed or deteriorated, returned a reading of 140mg of alcohol.

Defence counsel Russell Checketts submitted the bottles had been tampered with after the doctor packaged them and before ESR received them, based on the doctor's brief.

''He says he filled out the various things ... and `attached them to each bottle'. There must have been external interference with [the] blood samples.''

However, Judge Turner said there were ''no other issues'' with the samples and it was possible the labels had become loose in transit.

In addition to the fine, Gwilliam, who had one previous conviction for drink-driving, was ordered to pay $130 court costs, medical expenses of $43, analyst fees of $91 and witness expenses of $618.77, and was disqualified for six months.

''Drinking and driving is morally wrong and legally wrong,'' the judge said.