Police demand riders admit to alleged offence, then decide what offence.

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Police say they can demand riders admit to an alleged offence, then decide what offence.

They have been accused of abusing the law with the tactic, used against a number of motorcyclists.

MCN revealed how riders had received police letters saying they were suspected of an offence but withholding details of the allegation. The letters said they must admit who was riding at the time.

Now police have admitted they sent the letters before deciding what offence to accuse the riders of.

The letters cite Section 172 of the Road Traffic Act, which makes it an offence carrying six points and a £1000 fine not to identify the rider. Police routinely use it to find out who was driving or riding a vehicle caught by speed camera.

But the requirement to tell the police only applies when the rider is ‘alleged to be guilty of an offence’.

Northumbria’s Sergeant Dave Clement admitted there were no specific allegations against riders in this case. 

“I would imagine the investigation needs to take place before we determine exactly what offences,” he said.

He said the force had acted within the law. “The riders and drivers of these vehicles are under investigation so we need their details.”

But road traffic solicitor Robert Dobson said: “They cannot simply write to a registered vehicle keeper asking for the details of the driver when they have not identified the offence of which that driver is allegedly guilty.

“I would say it’s an abuse of the legislation, which wasn’t drafted for this purpose.

“It’s a pure and simple fishing exercise.”

The letters were sent to nine riders who took part in motorway slow-rides organised by the Motor Cycle Action Group over planned EU measures to prevent bike modifying.

In a separate action, Northumbria Police stopped 45 motorcyclists during the protest, on the A1 in Washington, for allegedly using their bikes in an anti-social manner.  Riders were issued warnings that a repeat within 12 months could lead the machine to be seized.

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Steve Farrell

By Steve Farrell