Motorised scooters a danger, says judge

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The future of the new motorised scooter, known as the Go-Ped, hung in the balance yesterday after a judge suggested the public needed protection from them.

The future of the new motorised scooter, known as the Go-Ped, hung in the balance yesterday after a judge suggested the public needed protection from them.

Lord Justice Pill, sitting at the High Court in London with Mr Justice Bell, said there appeared to be a loophole in the law allowing their uncontrolled use. The judges were asked to rule on a test case challenge brought by the Chief Constable of North Yorkshire to a Harrogate magistrates' decision last February that Go-Peds were not motor vehicles.

The scooter rider, Michael Saddington, 38, from Middlesbrough, had been cleared of driving a motor vehicle while disqualified and driving without insurance. Mr Saddington described a "Keystone Cops" scene in which he had been pursued through Harrogate town centre on his scooter by police with flashing lights and sirens wailing, in March 1999.

After hearing the evidence, the judge added: "This all shows the dangers of putting a Go-Ped on a public road. That is the very kind of machine which the public needs protection against."

In a reserved judgment, the court will consider whether the little runabouts, which are capable of speeds up to 20mph, should be classified as motor vehicles.

Geraldine Kelly, for the police, told the High Court that the status of the scooters, which are powered by a 22.5cc two-stroke, direct-drive engine, was causing confusion, and clear guidance was being sought from the High Court.

Ms Kelly argued that both a driving licence and insurance should be required for Go-Ped drivers so they could properly be classified as motor vehicles under the provisions of the 1988 Road Traffic Act.

But Richard Reed, appearing for Mr Saddington, told the judges: "This is not a motor vehicle and a clear message needs to be sent out that these are not to be used on the road - a message clearly spelt out by the manufacturer and retailer."

After yesterday's hearing, Mr Saddington described how he had borrowed a "toys for boys" Go-Ped from a member of staff while he was the proprietor at the Ginnel Café, at the Corn Exchange building, Harrogate. He said: "I was very stupid to go on the road. It was a spur of the moment thing I now regret. I cringe that I did that. We all know what the roads are like. They are not even adapted for bicycles, let alone these things, which are very hard to control."

Mr Saddington, who now has a restaurant in Middlesbrough, was spotted by police after he failed to stop at traffic lights at Parliament Street, in Harrogate town centre.

He was pursued by a police car with flashing lights and siren sounding until he picked up his machine and went into a pub, where he was questioned and officers discovered he was disqualified from driving. When later he appeared before magistrates, he pleaded guilty to failing to stop at the lights and failing to stop for the police. He was found guilty of failing to wear protective headgear, but was cleared of driving a motor vehicle while disqualified and with no insurance. He faced fines and a legal costs bill totalling £275.