TWO teens who were caught on camera as they rode round Rugby town centre doing wheelies on off-road motorbikes were tracked down through their Facebook pages.
Despite the risk they had posed to themselves and others, the police were ‘impressed by their co-operation’ – and believed they needed to be ‘educated,’ a judge has heard.
Although the judge at Warwick Crown Court declared ‘that’s what custody is for,’ Benjamin Murray-Ross and Jay Skinner narrowly escaped with suspended sentences.
The pair had pleaded guilty to four charges of dangerous driving on various dates in October last year, as well as having no insurance and no full licences.
Murray-Ross, 18, of Newbold Street, Rugby, was given a six-month sentence suspended for two years and ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid work.
Skinner, 19, of Knole Close, Rugby, who also admitted possessing a machete, was sentenced to eight months suspended for two years, and was ordered to take part in a rehabilitation activity and 150 hours of unpaid work.
Judge Stephen Eyre QC also disqualified them both for 12 months and made them subject to 7pm-7am curfews for two months.
Prosecutor Ian Windridge said police received a number of calls between October 1-22 about young men riding around the town centre on off-road motorbikes, sometimes without helmets.
Officers did not pursue them because of the risk to the unprotected riders, so they studied CCTV images and checked Facebook.
CCTV showed a green Kawasaki scrambler with the number 42, and a red scrambler of unidentified make with the number 64.
They were seen doing wheelies, going through red lights, and riding the wrong way round an island and keep-left bollards.
Facebook posts led the police to Murray-Ross, who was linked to the green machine, and Skinner, linked to the red one, and they were arrested.
Both accepted their involvement, and Mr Windridge said: “What they were doing was clearly dangerous to themselves. The police consider these are two young men who need to be educated.”
Judge Eyre commented: “I am grateful. That’s what custody is for.”
Mr Windridge pointed out that the two had been charged with one offence for each night they had been identified, and he played a selection of the CCTV recordings which included near-misses with cars.
He pointed out Skinner also faced a charge of possessing a weapon after police found a picture on Facebook of him brandishing a machete.
Colin Charvil, defending, said: “You are not dealing with bad driving at excessive speeds with complete disregard for the safety of others. Only a small part of the clips is what could be called dangerous.
“What you have is a case of two immature young men who are being extremely stupid and acting with bravado. They are not intending to put anyone in any danger.”
Of Skinner posing with the machete, he described it as ‘complete stupidity,’ adding: “It’s meant to make him look good. It doesn’t, it’s stupid.”
Judge Eyre told Murray-Ross and Skinner: “You rode at night on bikes which were off-road, and so had no lights, without helmets, doing wheelies and going the wrong way round roundabouts and through red lights.
“It is pure good fortune that people were not injured as a result of your stupid unlawful behaviour.
“I am told you need to learn. One of the purposes of sending people to young offender institutions is so they can learn the price of offending and learn to pull themselves together.
“It is by pure chance you are not both going down to the cells. I am just persuaded I am able to suspend the sentences.”
After the trial, PC Chris Batchelder said: “Murray-Ross and Skinner can count themselves lucky that they did not cause an accident and injure a member of the public or themselves.
“We have received a number of reports in Rugby recently about people driving off road bikes dangerously. Today’s sentence sends a message that we will take action and those who are carrying out these offences will be brought to justice.”
Report people riding off road bikes in your area by calling 101, or contact Crimestoppers anonymously via www.crimestoppers-uk.org or on 0800 555 111.