A spokesperson is walking back some of Northumbria Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) Kim McGuinness‘s earlier statements.  In an email response to ADVRider.com, the Commissioner’s representative said:

“The PCC was suggesting some thought should be given by the government to ways in which people who commit anti-social behaviour on certain bikes, or use them illegally, can be deterred. There have been many cases recently of people using motorbikes in an irresponsible way in some neighbourhoods.

“One option would be trackers fitted by manufacturers on certain bikes, or bikers encouraged to use one voluntarily, to help with recovery of any stolen bikes and deter their use. This was not a suggestion for all bikes. This talking point was in the very early stages – it’s about exploring the idea, consulting with experts and opening up conversation, which has certainly been done.

“Hopefully the biking community has other suggestions, which the office would be happy to hear. For information, we’re also looking at trialling drones to track the small minority of people using motorbikes dangerously on pavements in residential areas and are exploring the idea of a dedicated off-road riding area to give people a specific course to use instead.”

McGuinness’s green light for trackers

However, according to the Northumberland Gazette, the Commissioner was urging Policing Minister Kit Malthouse to give them the green light to allow for tracker devices to be fitted to all motorcycles so their whereabouts and speed can be monitored.  Even the Northumbria PCC’s own website previously indicated that trackers should be fitted to all motorbikes.  This webpage has now been taken down.

Northumbria

A screengrab of the now removed Northumbria Police & Crime Commissioner’s website stated, “Kim is urging Policing Minister Kit Malthouse to give the green light to allow for tracker devices to be fitted to all motorbikes so their whereabouts and speed can be monitored.”

New backdated webpage

Replacing the now removed webpage is a new statement on the Northumbria PCC’s website.   It is dated 25th March 2021, although it was not posted until 15th April 2021.

New webpage content

Previously, the Northumbria PCC’s website clearly stated that Ms. McGuinness wanted trackers on all motorbikes.  But that position now seems to have changed drastically, although the new one is still quite troubling.

The new webpage now says:

The Commissioner recently issued a press release calling on the Government to explore the idea of trackers being fitted to off-road motorbikes. This would help certain high risk bikes be recovered if stolen and deter misuse.

This move could help tackle growing motorbike misuse and anti-social behaviour throughout the region, and beyond. The problem is putting people in danger and is causing great concern within many communities.

These proposals caused concern to some law-abiding bikers, and we’d like to make clear that we are now working with motorcycle groups to look at more acceptable proposals.

The Commissioner is pleased that this has opened up conversation with the relevant parties and is now looking forward to working with them in finding solutions to tackle bike related ASB caused by  a very small minority of bike users. Anyone with ideas and suggestions that will help cut this crime and keep people safe is encouraged to contact the office.

Northumbria PCC

A screengrab of the new webpage on Northumbria Police & Crime Commissioner’s website is still dated 25th March 2021 and is a drastic departure from the page taken down by the PCC.

Change of position

The new webpage is drastically different from the page it replaces, and many might argue quite misleading.  It is quite concerning that a governmental agency charged with policing would backdate a position that is so drastically different than what was previously posted.  That the date was not updated is very suspicious.

Northumbria Kim McGuinness and Northumbria Winton Keenan

Northumbria PCC Kim McGuinness and Northumbria Chief Constable Winton Keenan.

Looking at the changes

With that being said, it does seem that there has been significant movement in the Commissioner’s stance on “trackers.”  Several things have changed, so let’s take a look at them, starting with the email provided by Commissioner McGuinness’s representative.

The Commissioner recently issued a press release calling on the Government to explore the idea of trackers being fitted to off-road motorbikes.

Unfortunately, it’s clear that Commissioner McGuinness was not “exploring” the idea of trackers being fitted to only off-road motorbikes.  Their own website and many news outlets reported that Commissioner McGuinness directly urged “…Policing Commissioner Kit Malthouse to give them the green light to allow for tracker devices to be fitted to all motorbikes so their whereabouts and speed can be monitored.”   That’s in no way an exploration of an idea to fit trackers, it’s a direct request to a higher-level official who could be in the position to influence legislators.

“…explore the idea of trackers being fitted to off-road motorbikes.”  This would help certain high risk bikes be recovered if stolen and deter misuse.

Off-road bikes only?

Based on this new PCC position, it appears that the Commissioner now only wants to fit trackers to off-road motorbikes.  And their main use would be to help “high-risk bikes be recovered if stolen.”

Well, that’s quite interesting.  The Commissioner’s original position was that the use of trackers was warranted because of:

“…resident concerns of bike-related anti-social behavior.”

Now it appears that her first concern is with the return of stolen motorbikes and the anti-social behavior is only secondary.  Hmm…

ADVRider.com’s questions answered?

As for the list of questions we submitted to the Commissioner, we received a “non-answer” reply. Although cordial, the response provided no answers to our questions.

The Commissioner’s representative said:

Thanks for the email. Your questions seem to be based on the tracking suggestion becoming a law. These are not firm proposals, just talking points, and I can’t give you a line by line answer I’m afraid.

Some of the coverage I’ve seen so far seems to be speculating that the PCC is about to introduce these measures. This is not the case, the PCC has no power to do this.

McGuinness can’t make law

According to the Commissioner’s representative, the Commissioner’s statements are merely talking points.  And, he states that the PCC does not have the power to create law.

Yes, we understand that she does not.  But we also understand that Commissioner McGuiness asked the Minister for Crime and Policing for authorization to install trackers.  When that happens the Minister for Crime and Policing has the opportunity to influence the legislative process.  And that’s quite concerning.

Any good news?

If there’s any good news coming from the Northumbria PCC, it’s that they now say they are working with motorcycle groups.

“…we are now working with motorcycle groups to look at more acceptable proposals.”

Frankly, consulting motorbike groups is something they should have done before making their tracking request.  The political grandstanding taken by Commissioner McGuinness should never have occurred.

But at least for now, the Northumbria CPP may have heard us.  If we take them at their word, they say that potentially only off-road bikes will be tracked.  Still, it’s an unacceptable “solution” for the stated problem.  They need better solutions and we should help them arrive at them.  Because it’s clear, the Northumbria PCC does not understand the motorbike community.

Followup

We’ve once again reached out to Commissioner McGuinness and the Northumbria PCC to clarify their new position.  We will let you know what they say if they respond.  In the interim, it’s important to carefully monitor what the Northumbria PCC plans to do going forward.

 

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