Africa

Random breath tests illegal, Kenyan court rules

A Kenyan police-officer tests the alcohol-intake of a driver in this 23, December 2005 photo in Nairobi Image copyright AFP
Image caption A court has blocked the use of breathalysers to charge motorists

A Kenyan court has banned random breathalyser tests as a way to catch drivers who are over the limit.

The decision was made following a three-year battle by bar owner Kariuki Ruitha, who complained breathalysers were ruining his business.

Mr Ruitha argued they violated Kenyans' constitutional rights to make their own lifestyle decisions - including how much to drink.

Kenya has some of the most dangerous roads in the world.

In the first half of last year, 1,574 people died in accidents.

However, sitting in the Court of Appeal, the three judges said drink drivers could still be charged under traffic laws - after which point a breathalyser can be used.

'Oppressive and unreasonable'

According to local media reports, Mr Ruitha, who owns a bar in Nairobi, first brought the case to trial more than three years ago, when he sued the Minister for Transport.

He had lost 80% of his business because customers were being breathalysed as they left the premises - leading to him lay off 44 employees, The Star reported.

In 2014, his lawyer described the rules as "oppressive and unreasonable" if someone had not already committed a driving offence.

His argument was backed up by a second bar owner, who had originally launched a separate case.

However, their victory may be short-lived. The judges have sent the law back to parliament to be rewritten.

"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," they urged, website MediaMax reported.

Related Topics

More on this story