Doncaster mayor leads call for licensing of off-road quads and bikes after spike in criminal gang use

Doncaster mayor Ros Jones and South Yorkshire council leaders have demanded stronger powers against criminals on off-road motocross and quad bikes and want the Government to roll out a licensing scheme.

Thursday, 25th March 2021, 12:00 pm
An example of recently seized quad bikes

The mayor outlined a number of incidents across the borough and said there was ‘strong evidence’ that criminal gangs were using quad bikes to transport drugs, stealing construction equipment, targeting HGVs parked in lay-bys for fuel, often approaching from fields and woodlands.

The leaders are calling for a licensing scheme to be brought in by Home Secretary Priti Patel – similar to those who operate taxis.

Leaders said that genuine members of the public, who own an off-road or quad bike for a legitimate reason, ‘are being wrongly labelled’ through the actions of a ‘minority’.

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Recently seized off road bikes

The licensing scheme proposed

Leaders say the licensing scheme would be largely based around the principle that anyone owning a quad bike or motorcycle, to be used off-road, would need to apply for a licence.

The licence application process would be used as a means to determine the legitimacy of owning this type of vehicle and its use, with the first stage being around verification and validity of the application.

For example, anyone operating a genuine business, such as a farmer or outdoor pursuit centre, or holding an occupation which requires the use of a quad bike, would still be able to do this. The same would be the case for anyone pursuing a genuine sporting interest, such as motocross or trail riding.

Damage caused to agricultural land by off road vehicles

However, using a vehicle in these circumstances would be determined by the licence, which would specify where this activity could take place. Examples may include designated areas or organised and licensed events, or on land they own, or have permission to use.

One key area of the licensing scheme proposed is providing additional and stronger powers to the police, meaning that anyone who fails to apply for a licence, or breaches any of the conditions, would have their vehicle seized.

The proposal is that any vehicle seized in these circumstances would not be returned, and could be disposed of using the new legislation.

Incidents in Doncaster

Home secretary Priti Patel

Mayor Jones added that it was ‘not uncommon’ to see groups of up to ten riders, in convoy, ‘adding to the intimidation’ felt by communities and farmers.

Doncaster Council has already had to install security gates at Cusworth Hall after criminals ‘using quad bikes’ breached boundaries and stole lead from the roof causing major damage.

The pay and display machines, installed in the car park to generate income for the museum, have also been attacked several times and were dragged from their spots in an attempt to steal cash.

Police have also been made aware of a disused piece of land off the M18 owned by Highways England being used as an ‘illegal off-road and quad bike track’.

Residents have reported convoys of vehicles travelling to the area to ride across the rough and open ground. Many of the riders are said to be from ‘outside the county’ and have been ‘attracted to the location by postings on social media’.

Some locals who reported the incidents said they had been ‘afraid to leave their homes’ or ‘going out on weekends’ to avoid the disturbance.

A recent large-scale police operation led to the seizure of 20 off road motorcycles and a quad bike.

The council leaders said it was ‘very difficult’ for police to pursue the perpetrators as they ‘travel in large groups’ and use them at night, when the off-road SYP bike team have a more ‘limited ability to operate’.

Mayor Ros Jones said: “Speaking to farmers and landowners in this area, we share their frustration of being victims, and, in some cases, having their own quad bikes stolen to satisfy a growing illicit demand.

A tightly controlled licensing scheme, supported by enhanced police powers, will reduce the flourishing outlet for this type of stolen vehicle.

“We also feel that genuine members of the public, who own an off-road or quad bike for a legitimate reason, are being wrongly labelled.

“This is because of the actions of a minority of individuals, who believe that ownership of these types of vehicles provides them with the right to trespass on private land, damage our open spaces, and, in some cases, ride them on the road without the correct licence, insurance, or documentation, and thereby tarnishing the reputation of genuine owners.”

“We welcome the opportunity to discuss the feasibility of our proposal, supplying further information in support of a pathway towards new legislation.”

The letter was signed by:

Mayor of Doncaster Ros JonesMayor of Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis MPSheffield Council leader Bob JohnsonBarnsley Council leader Coun Sir Steve HoughtonRotherham Council leader Coun Chris ReadSouth Yorkshire Police & Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings

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