“Why has an Authorisation Permit now become so important?”
This sea change affects show organisers, event co-coordinators, race officials, participants and even insurance underwriters. It's particularly important to those who are involved in any event involving ANY 'mechanically propelled vehicle'. Under the Road Traffic Act for example, an event organiser, a race director or even the landowner can be prosecuted for contravening the Road Traffic Act. And since this includes driving that could be considered dangerous if it were on the highway, in events where driving is challenging at the very least- by implication the law is broken. If there is a serious incident resulting in a fatality, the organiser could face a fine of up to £20,000 or a prison sentence, since this is not covered by any insurance policy. It is now possible for drivers to accrue points and a ban for offences committed on private land where events are taking place. The IOPD Permit Authorisation puts events into the IOPD authorised status, demonstrating good practice and providing exemption from prosecution for the most serious driving offences for all those involved with events that are off-the-highway and authorised.
“But has there been any new legislation?”
It is under EXISTING legislation that officials can be charged with culpable manslaughter in the event of a fatal incident. It is existing legislation which allows for drivers and riders to be charged with death by dangerous, reckless and inconsiderate driving on private land when the public are present. It is the 2006 Road Safety Act which allows the police to seize and crush vehicles involved in criminal acts. It is under 'Aiding and Abetting' or joint enterprise that prosecutions can be extended to organisers or land owners.
“Who is affected by these draconian measures?”
If you operate any off-the-highway event that includes mechanical vehicles of any type, the Road Traffic Act as well as Health & Safety at Work legislation now affect you, even if the venue is a purpose built circuit or stadium. Although described by some as “draconian measures”, this now has precedence in law. (Cawley vs. Frost Court of Appeal 1976)
“Why are these changes happening?”
These changes have happen for a number of reasons, not least because of growing public unrest over the increasing amount of mechanically propelled vehicles, from moto x in housing estates to 4x4s on bridleways, noise abatement, planning and other issues, and as a response to health & safety issues following serious injuries and fatalities.
An accident, even if it is not on the highway, can become a 'Scene of Crime' (remember Richard Hammond's accident was on a private Airfield); police and HSE investigations don't stop at the gates to private land; as a result you could be charged by the police with dangerous, careless or inconsiderate driving (or riding) or being an aider and abetter. This may result in a fine and points on your licence. If there is an accident involving a fatality, charges could even be for causing death by dangerous driving and, if negligence is proven, a prison sentence could even follow.
Once a criminal prosecution is successful a Civil claim for compensation against the organisers or the Insurers will be very difficult to defend.
“How does mainstream motorsport avoid these prosecutions?”
In 1991 after much lobbying by motorsport organisations in general, the law was changed and in particular Section 13A - (1) of the R.T.A. This now states:
'…A person shall not be guilty of an offence under section 1,2 and 3 (dangerous, careless and inconsiderate driving) of this Act by virtue of driving a mechanically propelled vehicle in a public place other than a road if he shows that he was driving in accordance with an authorisation for a motoring event given under regulations made by the Secretary of State (Statutory Instrument No: 1370)'
In effect, a person shall not be guilty of the six most serious offences if it can be shown that he or she was driving or riding under a Road Traffic Act (Off Road Event) Authorisation Permit issued by an Authorising Body under Road Traffic Act Regulations 1991. Only this Authorisation makes it acceptable with consenting arrangements made between all the individuals involved (i.e. the signing - on contract recognising the risks of participating and the risk of being struck by other participants).
“What is an Authorising Governing Body?”
In 1992, a group of eleven organising groups applied to the Secretary of State and under Statutory Instrument No 1370 were made Authorising or Governing Bodies and so are able to inspect, approve and sanction off-highway venues and issue Authorising Permits. These are the only Official Organisations who by law can issue Authorisation Permits. However, today you may find other organisations claiming that they can issue permits and some even issue competition licences. BUT THEY ARE NOT LEGALLY RECOGNISED and have no statutory empowerment to authorise! So if you are unfortunate and have an accident you may find you are not exempt from prosecution and your competition licence may not carry any legal force or status.
Authorising Governing Bodies liaise with and occasionally challenge Enforcement Agencies, Local Authorities and Government on behalf of participants and organisers, to ensure rulings do not adversely affect the future of auto sport in the U.K. They can and have taken cases to the High Court if needed.
Why don't all Governing Bodies offer to consider authorising all types of Events? Over the years most of the 11 Governing Bodies have focused on very specific types of activities i.e. Traction Engine Rallies or Motor Sports limited to vehicles with a specific number of wheels. As a result they have built up very specialist knowledge in their chosen field and so may have limited knowledge out side of this specialist area of control and so may not want to be associated with the risks of an activity that they may not fully understand.
Over the 20 years the IOPD has looked at ALL leisure activities as it was instructed to do by the Department of Transport before empowering it.
So sometimes at a venue and on the same day it may be that one Governing Body is issuing a permit for a Circuit or Drag Race and the IOPD is issuing a permit for the Stunt Show or a Display. The stewards simply work together to agree the timing for the change of control and the permit of authorisation.
The IOPD provide guidance manuals, rules and regulations to help event organisations, riders and drivers avoid taking unnecessary risks and thereby placing other people at unnecessary risk.
The IOPD can also provide stewards, inspectors and expert witnesses if asked to do so.