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Tuesday, 5 March, 2002, 21:05 GMT
Mother's victory over drink loophole
Mary Kettle
Mary Kettle campaigned for tests on unconscious drivers
The mother of a road crash victim has won a battle to prevent drink-drivers escaping justice.

The Home Office has told Mary Kettle, of Falmouth, Cornwall, that the law is being changed so blood samples can be taken from unconscious drivers.

Mrs Kettle's daughter, Sarah, died at the age of 33 when her car was in a collision as she drove home from work.

Doctors refused to let police test the other driver's alcohol level while he was unconscious.

Sarah Kettle
Sarah Kettle lived life to the full, said her mother
But a clause is being added to the current Police Reform Bill to allow blood samples to be taken without the driver's consent.

The drivers will be able to prevent tests on their blood - but they would risk prison if a court decided they had been drinking as a result.

Sarah died on 27 November 1999, and her mother has campaigned for a change in the law ever since.

Mrs Kettle told the BBC: "The police came to see me and explained what had happened - that this driver had been driving his car at a very fast speed.

No proof

"It was only when we had an inquest that the story evolved."

The coroner recorded an open verdict because of a lack of evidence.

Crash scene
Sarah died her a speeding driver hit her car
"He said Sarah was an innocent victim of somebody who had been drinking," said Mrs Kettle.

"It showed the police just could not do their job.

"They could not breathalyse him at the scene because the doctor said he was in a life-threatening condition.

"Then the police went back and were told the same - this was the next day."

Now the Home Office has called Mrs Kettle to a meeting about her campaign to allow testing.

Drivers' refusal

"They said there was a new police bill and they were putting a clause in to close this loophole."

The law is likely to change later this year.

Blood samples will be held until the drivers are fit enough to give consent for testing.

The BBC's Home Affairs Correspondent, Margaret Gilmore, said: "If they decide not to allow tests on these samples, that will be held against them.

"It will be assumed they have something to hide."

Doctors' campaign

The British Medical Association (BMA) has also pressed the government to allow its members to take blood samples.

Under present law, taking a sample for anything other than medical reasons would constitute an assault and could be seen as a breach of patient rights.

Often, by the time a patient has regained consciousness and can give consent, alcohol levels in the blood have dropped.

The BMA says that giving doctors the right to take samples without consent would help prosecutions, but could also prove that a driver has not been drinking.

Sarah Kettle's mother Mary
"It [the verdict] showed the police could not do their job"
The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"Ministers do agree there is a legal loophole"

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