we're all crooks !

A few weeks ago, you may remember that we ran an article about North Yorkshire Police and their new get tough approach to speeding. The Chief Constable, a Mr Collins, made some rather forthright comments about speeding and the general attitude of speeders to the law and to society. In fact, he went rather further than that, suggesting that people who speed are 'lifestyle criminals' and that they warranted attention from his lads regardless.

He then attempted to parry criticisms by clarifying that he wasn't out to demonise motorcyclist but rather was simply calling it as it is, and highlighting the problems faced in his region.

Here's the article, should you need reminding.

Now this week he has released some statistics which would appear to back up his claims. It seems that around one in four bikers stopped for what he calles 'Extreme Speeding' have a criminal record.

That's pretty serious stuff. Maybe all the things our mums told us about bikers are true after all.

But we got thinking and decided it was time to have a closer look. There are, after all, three types of lies - lies, damned lies and statistics.

First stop was the Home Office. If they don't know about criminal records, who does, right? This may surprise you. It certainly did me.

33% of men aged 46 or over have a criminal record. As do 9% of women.

Changes in policy regarding cautions instead of prosecutions mean that 22% of males aged between 10 and 45 have criminal records, with 5% of women being in the same boat.

What does this tell us? That women are far, far better at not getting nicked than men are. And that there are an awful lot of us with criminal records.

Now let's have a look at the cross section of bikers, shall we?

According to the DFT, about 20% of active bikers are aged 46 or over. And 15% are women, according to the DSA. There are very few female bikers aged over 46 so we'll discount them for this calculation. Sorry ladies.

Time to do some maths.

Those numbers mean that, overall, something over 22% of motorcyclists have criminal records. Whether they speed or not. And whether they get stopped in North Yorkshire or not.

22% is just under one in four. So statistically the proportion of bikers stopped for extreme speeding who turn out to have criminal records is virtually the same as the proportion of bikers not stopped for speeding or anything else who have criminal records. And, for that matter, much the same as the proportion of almost any other cross section of society.

Now you may notice that Mr Collins has not chosen to target any other group and to publicise this figure. Statistically, bearing in mind the age and gender profile associate with the game, nearer a third of golfers will have a criminal record. Similarly bridge and whist players will have equally shady backgrounds. But Mr Collins chooses to ignore this. In fact, Mr Collins, statistically one in three of your classmates at school will, by now, have acquired a criminal record.

So you have to ask yourself, as I am, exactly what Mr Collins hopes to achieve by releasing information like this? He says he isn't out to demonise bikers. We can't see it.

We've invited a response from North Yorkshire Police and will publish it, in full and unedited, when it arrives with us.


Here's the full text of the press release so that you can see we aren't taking it out of context. Tne paragraph we're bothered about is the throwaway bit at the bottom. We've put it in bold so it stands out:

Press Release



North Yorkshire Police have unveiled a new weapon in the fight to cut motorcycle casualties - Autovision.
Riders and drivers coming into the county this weekend for the Gold Cup motorcycle races in Scarborough will be greeted by the new device which enables officers operating speed checks at any potential danger spot to record the speed, number plate and rider or driver’s face - releasing more officers for safety work, and forestalling disputes over the identity of offenders.

Autovision is also ideal for recording the details of extreme speeders - those travelling more than 30mph above the speed limit. It can be hard to record such riders’ registration numbers as they rocket by, and it can also be hard to catch them.

With help from North Yorkshire County Council - strong partners in the force’s get-tough enforcement policy - each policing area of North Yorkshire has bought an Autovision device. It is a highly mobile camera system which connects to police laser speed detectors. The camera sees and records what the operating officer sees, and records the information into a mini-computer.

The information is later downloaded and will lead to either fixed penalty tickets, or a swift court appearance for extreme speeders.

Assistant Chief Constable David Collins said: “Autovision gives us three bonuses:
- “There is no need to have a second officer down the road from a speed check, waiting to stop offenders. That officer is now free to get on with other accident reduction work

- “There is a safety issue in that there is no need for high speed pursuits, cutting the risk to both officers and the offender

- “Thirdly, Autovision will mean an end to speeders falsely claiming they weren’t the rider or driver, or that we’d got the wrong vehicle.”

As well as the new speed check system North Yorkshire Police will again mount extra patrols and speed checks for the weekend, with the emphasis on enforcement of speed limits. The force’s successful fast-track policy is still in force, so extreme speeders can expect to go before a court with days of being caught, and face the likelihood of losing their licences.

Mr Collins said: “We still follow our policy of advice and education for road users, but this year has shown that a firm line on enforcement does bring results.”

And Mr Collins made a personal appeal to all road users as the leisure motorcycling season nears its end. He said: “People across the county and beyond have responded very positively to our enforcement campaign this year, and the figures so far show we are on the right track - 12 riders have died this year compared with 26 at the same time last year - and we are desperate for this downward trend to be maintained.”

He said: “12 is still 12 too many, and each represents a tragedy whose impact spreads out far beyond the family and friends of the deceased, but none the less we can take some encouragement from the results of the get-tough campaign. Particularly pleasing is the understanding and support we have had from many riders and members of the motorcycle media.

“But what I really want is to be able to draw a line under this year’s motorcycle casualties in North Yorkshire. I am asking all road users to make that extra effort to ride and drive safely, sensibly and with consideration for others - that’s all it takes to slash the dreadful toll of death and injury.”

Mr Collins added that one result of analysis of the get-tough campaign was particularly interesting. “One in four of those riders caught extreme speeding in North Yorkshire this year turns out to have a criminal record. There appears to be a connection between responsible riding and living a responsible life - simply, there are some people who just don’t care about others. They are people who will be receiving special attention from my Road Policing officers.”

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