A few years ago, I was working in England as a forensic science consultant. I drove to Kingston-Upon-Thomas Magistrates’ Court one rainy, grim morning, fighting my way round the North Circular for several hours, not expecting my day to be any more exciting than any other day at court.
The case involved a Failure to Provide a Breath Sample – the Defendant didn’t supply a satisfactory breath sample to the evidential breath testing device (EBTD) so the EBTD didn’t get complete readings. In the absence of reliable breath readings, if the Police consider that the driver wasn’t trying hard enough to blow into the EBTD, the driver can be charged with Failing to Provide (otherwise, they can be offered the opportunity to provide a blood sample instead).
Most of these cases are the result of the driver not actually trying hard enough – they’ve heard various urban myths about how to beat the machine but with the UK machines, such ploys do not work. However, in this case, the Defendant had a medical history of lung disease (emphysema, I think), had been to the doctor both before and after the incident and had had lung function tests, which confirmed that he really did suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – this can be a successful basis for a defence to the charge (and it’s not something that is readily faked and requires medical evidence at trial). My evidence involved talking about the functioning of the EBTD and what the information on the printout from the EBTD meant in the context of the case.
All very interesting if somewhat mundane for my case workload at the time. What made it more interesting was the fact that the Defence barrister and I had a very interesting conversation about my time in New Zealand, the fact that I was moving back to New Zealand the following year and that New Zealand is a proud rubgy nation. From there we moved on to the impending Rugby World Cup in France and how the Defence barrister was just doing this lawyer work as his day job – the rest of the time he was training to be an international rugby referee and how he was going to be leaving for Argentina soon for one of his first forays into the international arena.
This was, for me, an extremely exciting thing to discover. At the time, I was disillusioned with my job in England and travelling to court for hours on end every week was really wearing me down. To be able to go home at the end of the day and tell a tale of meeting a future international rugby referee was a big moment – it sounded well impressive and made for a very interesting work story indeed.
The referee in question was Wayne Barnes. Not too long after the last time I saw him at court, he was refereeing a match between the All Blacks and the French. Unfortunately, Mr Barnes was hammered for his refereeing decisions and I was hammered by my NZ partner for knowing him. I have received a hearty drubbing from kiwis ever since, whenever Mr Barnes is refereeing a game or whenever the ABs lose a game (although how this is always Wayne Barnes’ fault is beyond me).
I am now watching Wayne Barnes refereeing the South Africa -v- Wales match. I hope he excels this World Cup. For his sake. And mine.