dr klatzow
 

Bad science will never make good law.

Cape Argus, 4 October 2011

No matter how much bluster and spin the MEC tries to muster, he cannot escape the hard facts of science and law, which do not operate in the realms of political perception but within immutable scientific principles and the framework of the Constitution, which guarantees a fair trial to all.  The MEC should temper his criticisms by paying more attention to facts and less to political perceptions, as the former are invariably more reliable than the latter.


I have no issue with the desire of Mr Carlisle to rid the roads of drunken drivers.  I have, however, taken issue for some time with Mr Carlisle regarding the use of the Dräger apparatus as a primary prosecution tool for reasons which will be apparent from what follows.


The test to which he refers so disparagingly was not intended to be a comprehensive study of the device.   The results of the test were available to both the prosecution and the defence.  I did not consume alcohol during the testing.  I supervised the test and the qualified personnel undertaking the testing.  My results were accepted as accurate by the other State witnesses.  Carlisle’s assertion that the tests were run with “zero control” is untrue.  Carlisle’s snide remark about Adv Mitchell “being smart enough not to call for this questionable evidence from Dr Klatzow” needs to be seen in its true light.


There was no need for the defence to adduce evidence other than from Dr Raine, a pulmonologist, because all other facts material to the defence were admitted by the State’s witnesses during their evidence. 


Mr Carlisle accuses me of wanting to establish a routine blood laboratory to perform the tests which are at present being so inadequately performed by the State. The truth is that I was asked by Helen Zille to advise her about the possibility of setting up such a laboratory.  The advice given to her by me was that there was no reason why this should not be done.  How this translates into my desire to run the laboratory escapes me.


Carlisle fails to understand, I would suggest maliciously, that if you are going to bring down the law on the public with such vehemence, one might just be well advised to obtain incontrovertible evidence and not use a bottom of the range instrument which is not even in use in its home country, Germany.  They use a much more sophisticated model.


In its first court appearance the Dräger instrument in use in South Africa failed rather spectacularly and in full public scrutiny.  Let me list why:


1.    The instrument was not properly calibrated.

2.    The Dräger was not properly registered in terms of the act.

3.    The particular Dräger in use here is the simplest of the Dräger range.  The safeguards which are in place in the German model are not present in this
        watered down instrument. 

4.    There is no allowance in this particular instrument for measuring breath temperature, leading to inaccuracy.

5.    This instrument fails to detect mouth alcohol reliably.

6.    This instrument fails to distinguish between Ethyl Alcohol (which is the alcohol causing the offence in terms of the Road Traffic Act) and other short
        chain alcohols which may be present as congeners and fusel oils in alcoholic beverages. It may also be in the blood stream and hence the breath of
        people under certain metabolic circumstances. 


This is not an exhaustive list.  Any single one of the above 6 would have in my view been fatal to the use of the Dräger as a primary prosecution tool.


Ten weeks for an analysis is quite acceptable.  It is less than the time between first appearance and the second court date.  Carlisle wishes to railroad the process without giving the accused time to consult an attorney or time to prepare a defence.


The emotive use of language by Carlisle is persuasive in politics but it fails to transcend the simple problem, that the Dräger instrument in use here is not up to its task.

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Dr David Klatzow                        Forensic Scientist

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