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Q1. The legal issue for the High Court was to in order to determine whether a person charged with an offence contrary to s 5 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, of consuming so much alcohol that the proportion revealed in his breath exceeded the prescribed limit, was the court entitled to restrict the meaning of ‘consuming’ to the act of drinking and to no other mode of introduction or injection of alcohol?
Prosecution will focus on the true construction of the Road Traffic Act 1988, s5(1). The term ‘consuming’ should not be interpreted in a restrictive sense considering the mischief it was aimed. It was capable of interpreting in a variety of meanings depending on its context. Thus, ‘consuming’ cannot be restricted to drinking alone. It can include introduction of alcohol into the body by injection or other means. Based on this reasoning, interpretation of the language used in this Act must expand the meaning of the term ‘consuming’ to include the mode of entry of the alcohol into the body.
Based on Dr Wells’e evidence, benzyl alcohol was alcohol within the meaning of the Road Traffic Act 1988, s5. Based on the true construction of the term, the defendant has consumed the alcohol through injection. Based on the fact that the level of alcohol in the defendant’s body is higher than the prescribed limit, the defendant has committed the contrary to the Road Traffic Act 1988, s5.
The provision of the legislation must be interpreted to govern the mischief the legislation aimed. An object of the road traffic legislation was to promote road safety. According, the accepted perception based on medical knowledge is that presence of alcohol in the human body impaired driving. Based on this reasoning, the word ‘consume’ cannot be given a narrow definition. It, thus, includes consumption by injection and the defendant is guilty under the Road Traffic Act 1988.
For the purposes of the Act of 1988, s5, the term ‘consuming’ must be given a legislative meaning considering the intention of the legislature. While interpreting the term ‘consuming’, consideration must therefore be given to the motives of Parliament. In general sense, the ‘consume’ in the context of alcohol may involve imbibing, injection, or possibly eating an alcohol-soaked confection. Thus, there may be a wider interpretation. However, such wider and general interpretation cannot be held relevant in the current case. It cannot override the motive of the legislature. Section 5 requires consumption of the alcohol. It does not, therefore, include injecting. Thus, in the circumstances of the particular case, the insertion of Kenalog did not amount to consumption within the meaning and spirit of the 1988 Act. The legislature did not intend to include injecting as a part of the interpretation of the word ‘consume’ in the 1988 Act. In such case, the defendant cannot be held guilty. Moreover, the defendant or his doctore, Dr Wells was aware of the presence of benzyl alcohol or of its possible effects at the time of injecting Kenalog. Further, the cause of the reading on the machine cannot be the wine the defendant consumer. The injection of Kenalog caused benzyl alcohol was capable of remaining in the body for as long as the pain relieving drug would operate. During this period, benzyl alcohol would release intermittently and unevenly direct to the air passages of the lungs. Because of the presence of benzyl alcohol, the reading of alcohol level in the defendant’s body on the machine crossed the prescribed limit. Thus, it cannot be ruled that the defendant consumed alcohol beyond the prescribed limit. In the light of the given circumstances, it must be noted that the primary meaning of consuming alcohol in context of the Road Traffic Act 1988, s5(1) is consumption of alcohol by mouth, whether it is in the form of liquid or food prepared with alcohol. The wide meaning of ‘consume’ being given in normal sense to include other methods of ingestion of alcohol into the body cannot be relevant and applied in the current case.
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