Stories from the book, 'The Police in Lewes.' Part 5

In 1967, the breathalyser was introduced. Picture: Pc Tony Burton demonstrating the Alcotest 80 for the then Transport Secretary Barbara Castle
Sunday Telegraph
Daily Mail

The introduction of the breathalyser tests in the 1960’s, on occasions resulted in some quite bizarre results.

This one of those; KB15 was on the Offham road late one evening and while driving along that road came up behind a PMC. PC Gary Whittle noticed that the car frequently touched the nearside of the verge and throwing dust and dirt into the air. They stopped the vehicle because of this type of driving. On being stopped the driver admitted to having had a drink, however, he did appear to be perfectly sober. He stood up straight and his speech wasn’t slurred, the usual tell-tale symptom.

They invited him to take a breathalyser tube showed ‘green’ and so he was arrested. Having given a blood sample the normal procedure was carried out of giving him further breath tests until one of them showed up ‘yellow.’

After several hours in police custody and a number of test the tube still showed positive. He was asked just how much he had drunk and he told them just one pint. The officers just couldn’t understand why the breath test was still showing negative if the man had only drunk one pint. He was then asked why he had kept clipping the nearside kerb while driving through Offham. His reply was that having seen the police car in his mirror he was keeping well in to his nearside so that the police car could overtake him. At 5am the breathalyser was ‘given best’, and the driver was then taken home and told to wait a while before collecting his car.

The result of the blood test was sent back to Lewes and showed just the merest traces of alcohol.

There are times rules were made to be ‘bent’ a little

Another early breath test resulted in a man employed at Southerham Cement Works being disqualified from driving. As he was due to start work each morning art 5am each day and living at Neville, something had to bedone short term to assist him; he was to be dismissed if he was unable to get to work on time. As a result Ray Duplock was deputed to drive the offender to work for a week during ‘B’ section’s stint on nights; that is with other commitments permitting! There are times rules were made to be ‘bent’ a little, and it’s something Ray remembers getting on for 40 years later.  

Here is another short story about breath tests. This one was given to a man when he ‘rolled’ his car down a hill ‘out ibn the sticks.’ One of the ‘Raspberry Split’ police cars attended this accident and when Joy Christain had assembled her breath kit together and lastly attached the mouth piece so it was ready to use the driver, unusually said to her,’  Don’t bother with that miss, I’m pissed’

Gary, the station Officer

On another occasion when Gary was the station Officer, again in night shift; it was mid-winter and bitterly cold outside and even colder in the countryside. The was an influx of French Lorries; which had been increasing for the past few weeks coming in from Newhaven docks, and quite often these French drivers got themselves lost.

On this particular night Gary was and had been very busy with the very old and heavy enquiry office door which was frequently being left open when people had left the office. This was annoying Gary more and more when this happened. It was cold enough without leaving the blooming doors open.

At this time Gary was sitting behind his desk with his ‘red nose’ when in walked one of the French drivers and he to left the office door open. The driver could speak no English but Gary was very fluent in French and said to him, ‘Closee le Porte, mate, cos it is ruddy taters in here.’ What the driver made of it isn’t known. Now PC Gary Whittle was a very quick witted officer who somehow had ‘a nose’ for detecting various offences. He quite often brought in miscreants with but very little evidence – much to the apprehension of the duty sergeant – but usually finished up with quite some ‘good jobs.’ As a result for having this ‘nose’ he sometimes found himself on the end of a ‘fizzer. But he was always acquitted of any wrongdoings, but his interviews or nearer the point ‘the clashes’ with the Divisional Commander were not always looked forward to by the latter!’

There was one particular occasion when the Superintendent decided to give Gary a pep talk on ‘esprit de corps.’ He opened the conversation by saying that he had attended a Force football match in Brighton during the previous week, but that he had not seen Gary there. On asking Gary why he wasn’t there he was advised that that, in fact Gary had attended this match. The Superintendent said in a particular disbelieving and accusing voice, well I didn’t see you there – where were you? The response and a very big ‘put down’ was, I was playing centre-forward sir.’ It was an almost an impossibility to get the last word in with PC Gary Whittle.

Another of Gary’s quick witted responses was on the occasion that he was taking a prisoner  in KB 15 through central London, He realised that the road he was on was ‘one way’ and he was going in the wrong direction. He immediately switched on the ‘two’s and blue’s’ and put his foot down traversing the whole length of this rather busy ‘one way’ road at a high speed,  and then he quickly retrieved his correct position on the road.

Drafted into Brighton

Lewes Police officers at West Street were quite often drafted into Brighton to help police such things as protest meetings, marches etc. One memory of attending one such meeting at Brighton is of when the officer in charge of the operation was a particular Superintendent who had a rather ‘loud booming voice’ somewhat similar to an army sergeant major.

It happened that on this occasion it was all quite friendly and was reasonably ‘good natured’ and there a fair bit of banter between the police and the demonstrators. Unfortunately, this changed somewhat when the Superintendent started issuing his instructions, using his ‘loud drill-sergeant like voice.’ The situation quickly became very restless, and it then took quite a few minutes to get the demonstrators ‘back on side again.’ It is not always a wise thing to do, to shout too loudly, especially not when you have them on your side anyway. Sadly, this happened all too frequently by certain senior officers and really wasn’t the right thing to do in situations such as this.

Researched and written by David Rowland with grateful thanks via the wonderful book, ‘The police in Lewes.’


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