Judges in Kenya rule random breath tests illegal 'because they violate people's rights’

Will Worley
A Kenyan police officer administers a breathalyser test to a driver in Nairobi: TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images

Judges in Kenya have ruled the use of breathalysers is illegal after a bar owner brought a case saying they violated people’s rights.

Kariuki Ruitha, who owns the Reminisce Club in Nairobi, said he lost 80 per cent of his business after police began using breathalysers - known locally as alcoblows - on customers.

His clients were scared to visit the bar because of the risk of arrest and the resulting loss in revenue meant he had to make 44 employees redundant, The Star reported.

Mr Ruitha argued the use of breathalysers violated the right of Kenyans to make their own lifestyle choices.

His case was brought together with another one in 2014 which also argued against the use of breathalysers.

A lawyer for Mr Ruitha said in 2014 the rules were "oppressive and unreasonable" for drivers with a clean record.

But the case was thrown out at the High Court.

However, yesterday at the Court of Appeal three judges ruled the breathalyser laws were badly written and inconsistent with the country’s Traffic Act.

They said the legislation around breathalysers did not specify that drunk drivers were breaking rules if they were still in control of the vehicle.

But they also recommended the legislation should be reviewed to strengthen the legal position of breathalysers.

The judges said: “As the need to prohibit drunk-driving is still dire, and this matter being of great public interest, no doubt the authorities will move with quick dispatch to remedy the position.”

Kenya has one of the worst road safety records in the world, with around 13,000 people dying in car accidents in 2013.

Up to five people a week die in traffic accidents in Nairobi, mostly at weekends, the Standard reported.