Police helicopter tracks cyclists drinking wine in South Wales
If you wanted something to illustrate how pettty offences are now treated as full-blown crimes, we can point up to the police helicopter tracking a man suspected of riding a bicycle while drinking a bottle of wine in Llanelli, South Wales.
A Dyfed-Powys Police spokeswoman confirms the news:
“A PCSO was on patrol saw a male riding his bike in the centre, he was drinking from a bottle of wine. The PCSO asked him to leave the area and the male became aggressive. The male rode his bike to nearby car park where he threatened the officer and was then arrested. He is currently in custody. During the incident the police helicopter was in the area and monitored activity from the air.”
Is this the Olympic Legacy in action when a man out on a bicycle is a suspect? Yes, he was swigging from a bottle of wine. This seems a litlte risky, given that when the bottle is nearer empty than full the cyclist will need to tip his head back further and so be unable to see where’s he going. He could tumble over the handle bars and lose his teeth, hit someone or spill the dregs.
But this is not a story obout accident prevention; this seems to be about law encroaching onto yur presonal freedoms to do stuff with our own bodies.
As Josie Appleton writes in ‘Robbed by the police‘:
There are now 712 alcohol control zones – called ‘designated public place orders’, DPPOs – where the police can confiscate alcohol from members of the public. These zones cover large areas of cities and town centres, beaches and parks – and they are increasing at a rate of around 100 per year. It is not illegal to drink in these zones –but it is a criminal offence to continue drinking, when a police officer asks you to stop.
The Home Offices advises:
‘These powers are not intended to disrupt peaceful activities, for example families having a picnic in a park or on the beach with a glass of wine. [O]ur advice is that it is not appropriate to challenge an individual consuming alcohol where that individual is not causing a problem. Bodies responsible for introducing and enforcing DPPOs must keep in mind section 13 of the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 which makes it clear that this power is to be used explicitly for addressing nuisance or annoyance associated with the consumption of alcohol in a public place. It is important to note that these powers do not make it a criminal offence to consume alcohol within a designated area … . Those enforcing these powers must take care that they do not state (either verbally or via signage) that the consumption of alcohol in a designated area, in itself, constitutes a criminal offence.’
But what about riding a bike while drinking?
The CTC charity notes:
Riding whilst under the influence of drink or drugs is an offence:
The Road Traffic Act 19881 section 30 says:
Cycling when under influence of drink or drugs
(1) A person who, when riding a cycle on a road or other public place, is unfit to ride through drink or drugs (that is to say, is under the influence of drink or a drug to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the cycle) is guilty of an offence.
(2) In Scotland a constable may arrest without warrant a person committing an offence under this section.
(3) In this section “road” includes a bridleway.
The drink/drive limit as defined by the Road Traffic Act 1988 section 11, only applies to drivers. For cyclists, the test is whether or not they are fit to ride so both the legal limit and the breath tests that the police use for drivers do not apply.
What about reckless cycling?
2) A cyclist, whether they are drunk or not, may also be deemed guilty of an offence for cycling ‘dangerously’ or ‘carelessly’:
a) The Road Traffic Act 1988 section 28, as amended by the Road Traffic Act 1991 says:
(1) A person who rides a cycle on a road dangerously is guilty of an offence.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1) above a person is to be regarded as riding dangerously if (and only if)— (a) the way he rides falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful cyclist, and (b) it would be obvious to a competent and careful cyclist that riding in that way would be dangerous.
(3) In subsection (2) above “dangerous” refers to danger either of injury to any person or of serious damage to property; and in determining for the purposes of that subsection what would be obvious to a competent and careful cyclist in a particular case, regard shall be had not only to the circumstances of which he could be expected to be aware but also to any circumstances shown to have been within the knowledge of the accused.
b) Section 29 of the same Act says:
Careless, and inconsiderate, cycling
If a person rides a cycle on a road without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road he is guilty of an offence.”
In this section “road” includes a bridleway.
3) Also, the Licencing Act 18722 (not Scotland) says that every person “… who is drunk while in charge on any highway or other public place of any carriage, horse, cattle, or steam engine […] may be apprehended, and shall be liable to a penalty…” (A pedalm cycle comes under the ‘carriage’ category in law3).
This Act, however, is rarely enforced as another clause makes it an offence to be drunk in every public place – including pubs!
The emphasis is on his drink. Were it a sports drinks or a bottle water, would his cycling have been more or less reckless? What about if the cyclist had been smoking, using his mobile phone or waving at people? Would he have been told to leave town? The PCSO’s problem was with the wine.
If you are causing a nuisance, the police have the right to stop you and confiscate your alcohol. However, if you are minding your own business, you should not be stopped because drinking in the street is not, in itself, illegal. The police or PCSOs should not tell you that it is illegal.