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Letter: Police Inaction at Wisley Probably Caused By Lack Of Resources

Published on: 12 Apr, 2017
Updated on: 12 Apr, 2017

From Dave Middleton

in response to: Motor Bike Invasion Feared By Wisley Airfield Neighbours

Yes, the trespass on the land at the former Wisley Airfield is a civil matter, but perhaps the Surrey Police spokesperson might like to refer to Section 34 of the Road Traffic Act of 1988 (as amended), which states that it is an offence to drive a motor vehicle on any land not forming part of a road, other than to park that vehicle withing 15 yards of the highway (which may also constitute civil trespass).

This statute includes private land if the driver or rider does not have the permission of the landowner to be there.

There is also the matter, that the airfield although in private ownership, could be considered a public place in that there is effectively unrestricted access to it on foot. If a public place, any vehicles used on it must, under Section 143 of the above Act, have third party insurance. I would be very surprised if many of the motorcycles conveyed to the site in vans are suitably insured.

Section 59 of the Police Reform Act 2002, also gives police the power to deal with vehicles being used in an anti-social manner and also where they are being driven on land off road, in contravention of Section 34 of the Road Traffic Act.

Any vehicle being driven on a public right of way, such as a footpath, bridleway or byway open to all traffic, must also comply with all provisions of the Road Traffic Act, The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 and the Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations 1989. A suitable driving licence and insurance must be held, Vehicle Excise Duty (Road Tax) must be paid and if a motorcycle, an approved helmet must be worn.

In short, there are a good many options open to the police to deal with this “event”.

I suspect the apparent reluctance to get involved is more due to lack of resources (minimum staffing on bank holidays to save money) and a serious lack of Traffic Police constables, with the appropriate specialist training and knowledge, due to the destruction of Surrey Police’s Traffic Department over the past 15 or so years.

By the way, I am a long-time motorcyclist myself, so I have no axe to grind against motorcyclists in general, just against the types that get involved in such “events” as this potential one, that do nothing but get all motorcyclists a bad name.

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Responses to Letter: Police Inaction at Wisley Probably Caused By Lack Of Resources

  1. Ben Paton Reply

    April 14, 2017 at 7:04 pm

    This is not a civil matter. It is a criminal matter. Attempts by Surrey Police to pass the buck by saying that it is a civil matter are false and misleading.

    See section 34 of the Road Traffic Act 1988:
    It states:-
    “if without lawful authority a person drives a mechanically propelled vehicle—

    (a)on to or upon any common land, moorland or land of any other description, not being land forming part of a road, or

    (b)on any road being a footpath, bridleway or restricted byway,

    he is guilty of an offence.

    That’s black and white.

    See also s33 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 which states:-
    “A person must not promote or take part in a trial of any description between motor vehicles on a footpath [F2, bridleway or restricted byway] unless the holding of the trial has been authorised under this section by the local authority.”

    It goes on to state that a local authority shall not give permission unless the land owner(s) have consented and states that anyone contravening this is ‘guilty of an offence’.

    The Road Traffic Act relates to roads and highways. The case of Suffolk County Council v Mason [1979] AC 705 has set down that a highway is anywhere that members of the public are afforded a right of way on foot, riding, accompanied by a beast of burden or with vehicles or cattle. Bridleways, footpaths and carriageways which are open to the public are ‘highways’.

    If the vehicle is driven in such a way that it creates a noise nuisance then the council can take action against the individuals responsible by serving an Abatement Notice under Section 80 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Failure to comply with the Notice is an offence which can result in fines of up to £5,000 being imposed upon conviction. The council also has powers to confiscate the scrambling bikes for non-compliance with the notice.

    Access to this land in Ockham is made by using public bridleways and public footpaths – which are clearly marked on the Ordnance Survey and Surrey CC maps. These have been shown to the police many, many times. They have also been given video of ‘trials’ involving upto 50 or 60 bikes.

    The Road Traffic Act defines a bridleway thus: ““bridleway” means a way over which the public have the following, but no other, rights of way: a right of way on foot and a right of way on horseback or leading a horse, with or without a right to drive animals of any description along the way,”
    and a footpath thus: ““footpath”, in relation to England and Wales, means a way over which the public have a right of way on foot only”.

    Surrey Police are plainly in dereliction of their duty in not preventing this chronic problem. Instead of taking effective action they habitually claim that it is a civil matter. That is simply not true.

    Their other tactic is to blame Guildford Borough Council. These motorcycles are often brought to Elm Lane in white vans. Most of the bikes do not have number plates. The vans are parked on the double yellow lines along Elm Lane – often blocking the road for residents.

    The police say that they are not responsible for enforcing traffic restrictions on double yellow lines. They say this is the responsibility of the council. So they tell us to call Guildford Borough Council.

    Does Guildford Borough Council ever do anything? No! Elm Lane is ten miles from Guildford and on the border with Elmbridge. Guildford Borough Council apparently cannot be bothered to send any traffic wardens.

    It is obvious that the residents of Ockham are being adversely discriminated against by Guildford Borough Council.

    Cllr Ellwood, who sits on the police committee/panel, at Guildford Borough Council was made aware of this situation last year. He too apparently subscribed to the false excuse that this is a civil matter and ducks responsibility for addressing it.

    Other Police forces and councils address this problem. Kent Police and South Gloucestershire council have information on their websites about it. Why can’t Guildford Borough Council and Surrey Police take effective action?

    All these public ‘servants’ are too busy finding excuses for inaction to do anything. Residents of Ockham have been given every excuse under the sun. The Conservative leadership in Guildford Borough Council clearly thinks the countryside is only good for building on and that the people who live there don’t matter.

    Policing services are clearly being rationed. It is time that these public authorities stopped peddling half truths and did the job for which we pay our taxes.

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