Greater threat of prisoner escape after police motorcycles axed

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High security police operations including moving maximum risk prisoners will be hampered because the motorcycle fleet has been axed, according to rank and file officers. 

Moving category A prisoners will take longer without bike escorts, prolonging the threat of ambushes by criminal gangs, according to the Police Federation. 

VIP escorts and the safe movement of coaches of football fans to away matches will also be affected, increasing potential for clashes, according to Russ Watson, chairman of the Northumbria Police Federation. 

Northumbria Police is disbanding its £200,000 motorcycle fleet on health and safety grounds.

Chief Superintendent Neil Mackay told Police Review magazine: "A decision was taken on 7 April, with immediate effect, to dissolve the force's motorcycle capability to maximise the safety of officers.

"There will be no loss of service to the public. Everything that can be done with a bike can also be done with a car.”

But Watson said: “It will impact on our ability to facilitate the smooth running of VIP visits or category A escorts for high risk prisoners, which motorcycles have tended to be used for.

"As an advanced driver myself, I always rely heavily on motorcycles to clear the path when I’m involved in one of those escorts.

“It’s in the facilitation of getting through traffic that the motorcycle comes into its own. The loss of bikes removes the smooth running of a convoy which allows a vehicle to be moved from A to B as quickly as possible.

“Motorbikes would previously have escorted visiting supporters to football grounds and facilitated free movement so the coaches aren’t held up and stopped.

“The force argues a car can do this just as efficiently but it can’t.”

Northumbria Police said some of its fleet of 15 Honda Pan Europeans and BMW RT1200s had already been sold to other forces.

A spokesman said: “The remainder will be stripped of the Northumbria Police livery and sold at auction.”

Mackay admitted: "The main area of work for the motorcycle section in this force has been for escort duties” but added: “We were concerned that motorcyclists were more vulnerable than officers in cars while carrying out this work.”

He said: “In response to concerns about officer safety we looked in detail at the demand for a motorcycle section and found that most of the time the motorcycles were not used and officers drove patrol cars.

"This was a result of a number of factors including weather conditions, as motorcycles are more dangerous to ride in wet weather or in snowy or icy conditions.”

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Steve Farrell

By Steve Farrell