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Thetford Forest police operation targets illegal off-road vehicles

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Police stopped 64 vehicles on Thetford Forestry land during a two-day multi-agency operation over the weekend following reports of illegal off-road vehicle use.

South Breckland Safer Neighbourhood Team and the Suffolk Rural Crime Team alongside members of Suffolk Special Constabulary and Norfolk Drone Units worked with Forestry England on the Norfolk and Suffolk side of the border over a full weekend of high-visibility action as part of Operation RESHAPE20.

The vehicles were stopped by police across both force areas and explanations given by officers to some riders that people can be prosecuted under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 or have vehicles seized under Section 59 of the Police Reform Act 2002 for using vehicles such as quad bikes and off-road bikes.

Officers of Operation RESHAPE20.
Officers of Operation RESHAPE20.

PC Les Maguire said: "We used all-terrain and 4x4 vehicles for off-road patrols. The intention is to make the forest a no-go zone for illegal riding, which is basically anywhere in the forest which is not a public byway, and use enforcement where applicable to prosecute offenders.”

Many protected species and their respective habitats are being destroyed and disturbed by people illegally riding motorbikes through the fire breaks, the gaps cleared in the forest to ensure fires do not spread out of control as oppose to legal use of the byways .

PC Maguire added: "Police also spoke with many responsible legal users of byways over the weekend. The vast majority were only too happy to speak with us and we welcome their responsible attitude.”

To use the byways with any motor vehicle, the driver or rider must have a road-legal vehicle and be fully insured and use the routes responsibly.

If vehicles are racing for example, councils can close them down since they are also shared-use rights-of-way for walkers, cyclists and horse-riders.

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