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Reflections on Defeat

Losing an election is no fun. You start the day running scenarios through your mind. In fact, you’ve spent the last few months running scenarios through your mind.

If Conservatives vote for me, we’ll have x votes. How many will vote UKIP? How many Independent? Will Labour voters only switch to Plaid? (It turns out that, pretty much, they will). What will they do with their second preference votes? Will more go to him or her? As the count approaches these calculations reach fever pitch.

Then you arrive. Suddenly everything goes calm. You wait, watch, pace and wait. In the background counters bundle votes into piles; the currency of democracy accumulating like bullion in a bank. Counting agents observe and report numbers.

I’d known since the results for Assembly seats were declared on Friday morning that my prospects were very uncertain. As the count wore on, they diminished to nothing. There’s no way of sugaring the pill. It’s horrible.

Perhaps the greatest frustration of losing is realising that the plans you have discussed so enthusiastically across so many doorsteps will come to nothing. I loved my term as police and crime commissioner. I enjoyed the campaign. I peddled my plans with feverish enthusiasm. The voters, it turns out, peddled them back. Such is democracy.

Whatever my personal disappointment, the public have had their say. That is a good thing. It is one of the reasons I stood for the post in the first place. I was fortunate to get one chance.

As in any new venture, I’m sure I got as much wrong as I got right. But I’m confident that on the few big questions – the ones that define a term of office – I delivered on my promises. We have more officers than when I started. They are fully funded and sustainable. We reduced crime and antisocial behaviour, which blight people’s lives regardless of how ’serious’ they appear. We have far more extensive support for victims of crime, from domestic abuse to neighbourhood disputes. We managed that while saving public money, which we had to do since less is available.

What went wrong? Something did, because I failed to convince voters to put me back.

Was it CCTV? Or the helicopter? Was it a decision, which began with a suggestion from the force’s finance team and went completely unremarked at the time, to stop charging the Royal Welsh Show around £40k for policing because it was not consistent with other police forces’ practice? This seemed entirely sensible to me but generated a foaming rage on social media.

Was it simply that elections for the Assembly swamped the PCC elections, encouraged voting on party lines and drove up turnout unfavourable to Conservatives? In which case, will it reverse in 2020 when elections coincide with the General Election?

Time will tell. It might be all of these. For now, here is some of what I will miss – and won’t miss – about this role.

I will miss:

  • Policing in action. Seeing officers and PCSOs walk their patch and greet – it sometimes seemed – everyone by name. Hearing about offenders prosecuted or victims supported. Knowing of people who have broken free from abuse thanks to services I have commissioned.
  • Discovering Wales. The road from Llandeilo to Lampeter, via Talley, in early summer must be one of the loveliest in Britain. Pembrokeshire’s hidden villages. And Radnorshire – but I knew that anyway.
  • The team. Bringing new skills into the PCC office and building existing staff was a pleasure. And much needed. So was seeing new services begin, good officers get promoted or PCSOs take up initiatives in their local area.

What I won’t miss:

  • Online bores, though I doubt they will go away completely. The worst thing about losing is that some of them seem to think it’s their posts wot did it. Not the 187,000 votes, you see.
  • Carmarthenshire County Council. Wales’ answer to a Sicilian cartel. It’s everywhere you look (thankfully only in Carmarthenshire – so far as I can tell). It extracts vast amounts of money from residents which it showers on favourites, hordes property, bullies opponents, co-opts friends and answers to no one, least of all local councillors.
  • The police mob. By far the majority of officers are wonderful (see above). But there’s a strain of police thinking, present in all forces and – at least in part – at all ranks, which, frankly, still does not understand who the police work for.

Police forces exist to serve the public, not police officers. Police and crime commissioners are one part of a package of reforms to ensure that is the case. I had a general sense of their need in 2012. I am certain of them now.

Which brings me to my final observation. My successor here must demonstrate that he stands for the public, not his old police colleagues. If he wants to defend local policing he will find his opponents not in Westminster, as he thinks, but among national senior ranks, inspectorates, staff associations and in Cardiff Bay. Will he stand for local people and fight his party masters, as he accused me of failing to do? We will see.

He and his colleagues inherit these reforms with much to do. We all get to judge them in 2020, when candidates will again be running scenarios through their minds. I wish them well.

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Polling Day

It’s polling day! Don’t forget to vote.

Today, you get your chance. You get your say on how we keep ourselves safe over the next four years.

The person you elect as Police and Crime Commissioner for Dyfed Powys will control £100m of your money. They will chose the next Chief Constable. And they will decide the priorities for keeping us safe.

I hope people will vote for my positive plan for safer homes, safer communities and safer businesses.

I hope they will support the work I’ve done to deliver more officers for more time on our streets, to get crime and antisocial behaviour down more here than anywhere else in Wales; and to cut the cost of policing to local households.

Whatever happens, it has been a huge honour to have served as the first Police and Crime Commissioner for Dyfed Powys, to establish the office and to work with the hundreds of wonderful people in uniform who protect us every day.

Whatever happens I am proud to have worked with them, proud to have been able to serve the public and I’d like to say just this: “Diolch yn fawr. Thank you”.

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The Choice

Campaigning is tiring. Canvassing can be monotonous and demoralising one minute, unexpected and life-affirming the next. It changes with the weather, the landscape or the mood of the last person you spoke to.

But we do it for a reason. It works. One of the great glories of our democracy is that people in power have to turn up on the doorsteps of ordinary folk every few years and ask for their support. Hundreds of conversations take place over rickety fences and weather-beaten door mats. Every so often one captures the choice facing a thousand others.

I approached one door in Pembrokeshire last Saturday. The sun was out. A man on his way to clean his car looked up. I introduced myself.

“I know who you are,” came the immediate response, then a pause.

“Can I count on your support?” I asked.

“It’s confusing,” came the reply. I didn’t know quite what he meant. “I’m a Llanelli man, you see. I’ve always known how to vote.” I guessed this was not Conservative.

“Ok. Why confusing?” I asked. Then another pause.

“I like what you are doing,” he began, “I’ve read what you’ve written. I like what you say. I don’t really disagree with anything you’ve done. It’s like last time. I knew your opponent. She was a good person, but… I used to know how I’d vote. I’m not so sure now.”

I made my point about the person elected controlling £100m of public money, choosing the next Chief Constable, setting taxes and deciding priorities. I made the point that, being an executive rather than legislative role, being police and crime commissioner was not particularly party political.

I got a smile and a response: “Yes. I know. I promise I will consider you. I promise. It’s confusing though. I used to just know.”

I may not support Labour but I understand the dilemma. It’s not easy to break the loyalty of a lifetime, possibly of generations. Loyalty to a cause is a good thing. And it’s not always easy to recognise that the people we oppose often share remarkably similar objectives. We all want to improve the lives of our fellow citizens.

I tell this story for two reasons. Obviously, I’d like people who normally vote Labour to vote for me. Of course I tried to persuade him and of course I hope my telling it persuades others. But I tell it also because this conversation seemed to capture so much of the choice facing voters, particularly Labour voters, at this election. And a large part of the outcome depends on what Labour voters decide to do.

Faced with a Labour candidate whose record as leader of Carmarthenshire County Council hardly inspires, I know many are questioning their decision. They are caught between the lacklustre choice of their own party and nationalist ideologues in Plaid Cymru. That leaves me, a Conservative, which is not an easy choice for a Labour man from Llanelli. I don’t imagine it’s any easier for a Labour woman from Ammanford either.

Ultimately, these people and many others across Carmarthenshire, Powys, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire will decide who is responsible for policing and keeping them safe. That in itself is a good thing. I have laid out my plans. I have made the case for the extra officers, increased support for victims, safer communities and lower bills that I have delivered.

All I know now is that the election will be close. Every vote will count. And – in case you are uncertain – the only safe choice is to vote Christopher Salmon for Police and Crime Commissioner on Thursday!

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Safer Homes

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting with support workers in a new sexual assault referral centre. We sat on comfortable sofas. The room smelt fresh and clean, with new paint and flowers.

I had introduced these centres, with support from Home Office funds, to help with the most destructive of crimes. As I chatted to a support worker over a cup of tea I realised what that meant. I listened to her describe the case of a girl abused by her own father over several years.

This was a particularly harrowing case. It reminded me that these things can happen anywhere, even in the quietest corners of rural Wales. There are many others, some as serious but many less so.

I launched my manifesto with Hafan Cymru to help tackle crime in the home.

I launched my manifesto with Hafan Cymru to help tackle crime in the home.

When I was first elected to this job, I was determined that rural areas and rural crime should not be forgotten. I am even more determined now. Rural policing is not just about rustling and wildlife crime. Rural policing is about protecting the poorest and most vulnerable in our remote rural areas.

I launched my election manifesto with charity Hafan Cymru because I want to use my campaign to tackle abuse in the home.

In my manifesto I am promising to increase support for victims of domestic and sexual abuse. These crimes have a particular ability to rip the heart out of people’s lives, which is why we must support their victims. They are often hidden in our homes, which is why we must all tackle them.

I increased support between 2012 and 2016. If elected I want to increase it further, working with voluntary groups, local councils and the Welsh Government to make sure we spend every penny where it makes a difference.

We need to improve the ability to investigate crimes, in particular digital and cyber investigations, to put dangerous people in prison. But we also need to work harder to prevent these crimes. That means intervening earlier, where abuse is suspected. It also means tackling problems which contribute to abuse, like drugs, alcohol and mental health problems. Where we cannot prevent a crime, we must make sure punishments ensure offenders mend their ways.

To tackle these problems we need more work with local public services. We must not turn everyone, particularly the mentally ill, into criminals. I want to invest more heavily in support with local councils and health bodies. And in turn I want to see them do much more to prevent problems escalating in our local areas. If elected, I will make clear my commitment and my expectation to ensure we protect the most vulnerable in their homes.

I have seen what the role of police and crime commissioner can achieve. I have successfully put more officers on our streets for more time for less money. I have increased support for victims by working with charities like Llamau and Hafan Cymru. I can see what more we can do.

Everyone wants to tackle these problems. I have no doubt my opponents want to do the right thing. But they don’t believe in the role of police and crime commissioner and they don’t have a plan. The choice for the next Police and Crime Commissioner for Dyfed Powys is clear: my safe plan or their shaky opportunism.

I want a safer Wales and a safer Dyfed Powys. I want our poorest people – those most hit by crime – to be safe in their homes, even in our most rural areas. That is what my plan means: safer homes.

The only safe choice is to vote Christopher Salmon for Police and Crime Commissioner on 5th May.

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Safer Communities

On the wall of Llanidloes Town Council chamber is a copy of a charter from Elizabeth I. It grants liberties to the town and the right to “seize all robbers, murderers and wrongdoers… [up to] one league from boundaries” of the town.

Opposite are a row of pikes from the town’s militia. Oak panels cover the walls, with pictures from the town’s life. The chamber is clean and well kept. It looks out on to the market square. This must one of the finest civic buildings in Wales.

I was visiting to discuss the town’s police station with local councillors. As elsewhere in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys, I have committed to improving local police stations. I want them to reflect local pride. And I want them to reflect the pride we, rightly, feel in our police.

We had constructive discussions. I’m determined Llanidloes will keep its police station, as will other towns. I have committed to ensuring that all communities retain their police base, even where we have to move locations.

Why have I done this? Because at the heart of our approach to policing in Britain is a very simple principle. That is, the police – like government itself – are the servants not the masters of the people. Police officers serve communities, not governments. They belong to those communities. That’s what the Llanidloes charter says.

That principle is a foundation of our liberty, our laws and our justice. I believe it is our single greatest national inheritance. I want to use its great power to make our towns and villages even safer.

I will continue to prioritise local officers and PCSOs, to cut bureaucracy and support local decisions.

I want to see much more of the public in policing. If I am re-elected I will ensure that every town, village or community that wants a dedicated Special Constable, with full police powers, gets one – the return of the village bobby in modern form. I want to see them on our streets in the next few years.

These committed volunteers already serve alongside regulars across Dyfed Powys. While we cannot afford to put a police officer in every village, we can support local people who want to give something back to their community and build their skills along the way. Special Constables represent a long history of organised public involvement in keeping communities safe.

I will expand Community Speed Watch schemes, which give local people and police the chance to tackle problem driving together. They already work in Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire, with more planned for Carmarthenshire and Powys. I am proud they are proving so popular.

We are lucky to live in such a safe part of the world – the safest, in fact, in Britain. But we must not forget that rural areas look beautiful but can hide real problems. I want to ensure that we protect our poorest areas and communities where crime does most damage. I want us to prevent crime by tackling the small things early – before they become the big things.

That is why I’m putting your local officer at the heart of my plan for safer communities. If it was good enough for Elizabeth I, it’s good enough for me!

If you support that plan, please vote for Christopher Salmon on May 5th.

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Your Safety, Your Choice

What makes you feel safe? Ask the public and this is the answer they will give: local officers.

History tells us the same. It’s why we developed local police forces, made up of local people, to keep the peace. Experience tells it. Constables (and now PCSOs) are the link between ordinary members of the public and the organised powers of the state. Poll after poll tells it. People want visible, accessible local police.

Elections tell it. Shortly, I believe, we will hear the message again. If you want to secure the extra officers we have since I was elected in 2012, with more time on patrol, you have to vote for me on 5th May.

My plan for the next four years has your local officer at its heart. My manifesto is a plan for safer, stronger communities, homes safe from abuse and rural businesses safe from the costs of crime. I want to focus on tackling crime in our poorest and most vulnerable areas so everyone has a chance at a secure, safe and prosperous life.

If I am elected, I will work with local people to help secure their area. Every town, village or community which wants a dedicated volunteer Special Constable, with full police powers, will get one – a modern version of the village bobby.

I will expand Community Speed Watch programmes, which I introduced to give local people control over speeding in their community. I will continue my plans to invest in police stations, so they work better and reflect local pride in our police.

Crime does not stop at the front door. Some of the most disturbing cases take place inside our homes. Child abuse, domestic violence, sexual exploitation and slavery take place behind closed doors.

We must tackle this but it cannot all be done by the police. They are there to arrest and prosecute criminals. But health, education, social services and the voluntary sector are often best placed to spot the early signs and protect victims.

I will increase my support for victims. I will build further on my new sexual assault centres, Help Hub service and support for runaway children.

But we won’t solve the problem if we don’t also tackle the people who commit these crimes. That means tackling problems in the family, drug and alcohol abuse and mental health issues. It also means ensuring that justice comes quickly so that criminals learn that crime leads to punishment. I want local justice to ensure offenders mend their ways.

Finally, I want our businesses to be safe from the costs of crime. Secure businesses make for a secure local economy, which means more jobs and prosperity. I’ve been struck how seemingly minor crimes have a major impact on small retail businesses. I will establish a regular business crime forum, so representatives from business and the police can discuss the latest intelligence, share knowledge and prevent frauds, scams and online crime.

That is my plan to build on our success and secure our future.

I insisted on two things when I was first elected as Police and Crime Commissioner in 2012: protect front line officers and focus on preventing crime.

We now have more officers spending hundreds of extra hours on our streets every day. Crime and antisocial behaviour – what the public experience – have fallen further and faster than anywhere else in Wales. And it costs local households less. Carmarthenshire, Powys, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire are the safest places in Britain.

My opponents offer plenty of criticism but no ideas. They do not believe in the job. They think police and crime commissioners should be scrapped but – quelle surprise! – they’re happy to take the salary. Their promises mean less money for front line officers. They have no plans because they are more interested in playing politics with their friends in Cardiff than in keeping people safe.

I have delivered the promises I made in 2012. I’m asking for your support to secure those gains for 2020.

The choice at this election is clear: my positive plan to keep us safe from crime, or politics and opportunism from my opponents. Your vote will decide the answer.

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Why I’m Standing

Now seems like a good time for reflection.

I’m coming to the end of my term as Police and Crime Commissioner for Dyfed Powys. Elections are beginning. On 5th May, people in Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, Powys and Ceredigion will decide who should fill the role for second term. How does the first term look?

I stood for this job in 2012 because I could see it’s potential to make a difference to people’s lives. I’m standing again for the same reason.

The police and crime commissioner controls the budget for policing and crime prevention, in my case around £100m. I’ve been able to set priorities to keep our communities safe. For me, that has meant two things.

First, it means prevention. Preventing crime means fewer victims, less damage and none of the costs associated with trials and prison. Secondly, it means rural answers to rural problems. Ours is the largest police area in England and Wales. We have some big towns but we cannot escape our huge geography.

I’m proud we’ve been able to increase the number of officers in Dyfed Powys. I’m proud they are able to spend more time protecting people, thanks to better mobile technology. I’m proud that crime and antisocial behaviour have fallen further and faster than anywhere else in Wales. And I’m proud I’ve been able to improve support for victims, particularly of the most damaging crimes like domestic and sexual abuse.

I was able to do that because I had a direct mandate from the public. I took tough decisions early to ensure we could prioritise frontline efforts. I reduced senior management costs. I cut Dyfed Powys free from the Ammanford police station contract, which acted like a giant millstone around the neck of the police.

All this meant I could reduce costs to local households, while increasing officers and putting public safety first. That is the power of this post and these elections. The public are in charge. This is a big job. It matters.

There is more to do. I would have liked to make more progress with the police estate. Our police buildings are expensive, scruffy and out of date. We have made progress, but my experience of the last few months tells me that nothing to do with land and buildings happens quickly.

I would have liked to see more Special Constables and volunteers. In my conversations with the public, I’ve been struck how eager people are to look after their own community. They are the best people listen to. They know what’s up. That’s why I’m pledging that every community, town or village that wants a Special Constable will get one if I am reelected.

I would have liked to make more progress with local authorities. We have a fantastic joint mental health team with local health services, which helps keep the mentally ill out of police cells. We have improved services and saved hundreds of thousands of pounds by jointly commissioning drug and alcohol treatment with Hywel Dda Health Board.

But work with local councils has made less progress – we can do much more to tackle abuse, bad behaviour, drinking and drugs through closer work with councils. I will make sure Dyfed Powys Police is doing everything it can and more. And I will not hesitate to hold councils to account where they fail to do their bit.

If the first term of this role was about the police, the second term should be about the ‘and crime’ part of the title. Holding the police to account is vital. It took time to establish. But, the real power of this role is in the commissioning, consulting and the listening. This blog from a former Labour PCC candidate in Dorset, makes the point well. That is how we will keep people safe, protect victims and free our poorest communities from the burden of crime.

Which brings me back to my first question. Why am I standing? I am standing because I’ve seen what a difference this role can make. It’s been a privilege and an honour to establish the role. I proud of my record. It would be a privilege and an honour to serve our public again.

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Who’s in Charge?

Who do you trust to keep you safe? That is the decision people across Wales face on May 5th. They will elect police and crime commissioners at the same time as their new Assembly Members.

When I started this job 2012, some people told me it would make no difference. Dyfed Powys is a low crime area, they said. It’s a quiet rural force. Budget cuts mean crime will rise. What can you do?

Today, Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, Powys and Ceredigion have more officers on their streets. Those officers are spending more time out and about thanks to investment in mobile technology. Crime and antisocial behaviour combined have fallen further and faster since 2012 than anywhere else in Wales.

That did not happen by accident. It happened because I listened to people. They wanted frontline officers to protect them and prevent crime. They wanted the police to tackle the kind of crime that doesn’t make a headline but does make lives miserable.

I made the decisions necessary to prioritise those frontline officers. I scrapped targets so they could deal with issues local people told them were important. I cut the top ten salaries by 20%, scrapped an expensive deal on Ammanford police station and saved money so we could spend more on frontline police work.

Police and crime commissioners control hundreds of millions of pounds. They hire and fire Chief Constables. Who they are matters.

In mid-Wales we need someone with a plan, who can take tough decisions. We need someone who understands rural areas. We need someone you can rely on to keep our homes and families safe in an increasingly dangerous world.

Our choice is stark. My challengers are decent people but they represent a clear and present danger to our safety.

Plaid Cymru have a separation obsession. Their candidate wants to split policing in Wales from England. This is madness in an unstable world. Their feverish, consuming passion leaves them blind to reality. They are more concerned about Cardiff politics than the people of mid-Wales.

Labour had a single applicant. He lost his job last year when his own party kicked him out as leader of Carmarthenshire County Council. Councillors then booted Labour out of office altogether. When Carmarthenshire needed action it got political games. We cannot risk squabbles, incompetence and dithering on our safety.

Others are standing too. But they lack the experience and profile needed to get things done.

We faced some big decisions when I was elected. Thanks to the sound plan, decisiveness and determination I could bring, we are safer despite having to save money.

There is more to do. So long as people are people, we will have crime. Tackling it will always take grit, determination and courage. We need to protect victims, particularly in our poorest and hardest hit areas. And we need to tackle offenders and ensure they pay their debt to society.

I am entering this election proud of my record but knowing we have much to do. I am asking the people of Dyfed Powys for their support to see through the change we have begun.

Ultimately, you decide. That change cannot happen without your support. The only way to secure it is to vote for me on 5th May. Anything else lets chaos and political squabbles through the door.

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Rescue Me!

As we brace for the tail of Storm Jonas we should spare a thought for the emergency services. We saw in Cumbria what steely determination they display. Coastguard, mountain rescue, police, fire and ambulance crews all serve on while we shelter at home. They are there when the cry goes up: “rescue me!”

Cumbria’s experience showed how many organisations keep us safe. We’ve seen the same here in mid-Wales, where bad weather is not entirely unknown.

Many of these services are run by volunteers. The spine of this great effort, though, are usually the police and fire services. If you are caught in a flood or trapped in a motorway pile up, they are there. They work hand in glove.

That’s why plans to bring fire and police together in England make so much sense. They will make a joint response easier, which means they will keep people safer.

Joint call centres will ensure the right skills get to the accident straight away. Shared buildings mean better coverage across remote rural areas. Shared skills mean more qualified, experienced officers with a wider range of support. Single, locally accountable, oversight means you and I get the service we need for our area. And we have a say in it.

Or we would, except these proposals do not apply in Wales. Welsh Government controls the fire and rescue service and they do not want to share.

In England, the services will retain their identity at the front line but merge support and hierarchies. Both will be directly accountable through police and crime commissioners.

In Wales, nothing. More talk, more boards, more ministerial working groups, more centralisation, no doubt more legislation. But action? Not likely.

Welsh ministers reject any suggestion of joint accountability out of hand. They let down Wales as they do it. This shouldn’t be a surprise: for years now, the Welsh public sector has been a reform-free zone. It’s no surprise that complacency in the party that has ruled Wales for so long has led to complacency in government.

I’ve written before how joining accountability for police and fire could secure more for the front line of those great services. We could lose the £70,000 we pay each year towards Fire Authority allowances. We could cut senior salaries. (Mid and West Wales has five officers on over £100,000. Its budget is £45m. Dyfed Powys Police now have two salaries above £100,000. Its budget is £98m). We could reduce dramatically the £1m spent each year on ‘corporate and democratic services’. All that means more for officers – the people who actually keep us safe.

You will see this happen in England over the next few years. It requires clear, powerful local accountability.

It could happen in Wales. Nothing stops the Welsh Government passing funding – and therefore accountability – for fire and rescue services through the four Welsh PCCs. They already do that for some police community support officers.

Where there is a will there is a way. Strong politicians give people power. Weak ones insist on taking it. Wales does not deserve to be held back by the pettiness of its political class, obsessed by how much they control, or more to the point, are seen to control.

Fortunately, there is an event not long from now where the will will have its way. Elections for the Assembly and police and crime commissioners fall on the same day.

Let’s hope they free us for more imaginative government. The message from Wales at this election? Rescue me!

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Antisocial Driving

Antisocial driving off-roading can be as much of a blight for rural communities as bad driving on the road. This terrible accident near New Radnor recently shows just how dangerous it can be too.

Two Landrovers fell 60m down the side of Harley Dingle – no small ditch but a huge, steep-sided valley – driving along a track at 2.30am. Thankfully the drivers, from the Birmingham area, are alive, albeit in hospital with broken bones.

I must declare an interest here. I know the area where this happened and I know the people who own the land. I grew up nearby and know how dangerous these hills are to drive around.

The question has to be, what were they doing there? At 2.30am? On ground they do not know, without the permission of the landowner and seemingly on a bridleway not open to wheeled vehicles? No one in their right mind would attempt that.

The police will investigate what happened, including any potential infringements of the law. I look forward to what they find out.

But, it seems hard to conclude that such action is anything other than irresponsible and that they were fools, at best. Luck fools.

This highlights the problem of irresponsible off-roading. Too often people dismiss the problem, assuming it doesn’t harm anyone. But damage done to roads, tracks and farmland is considerable.

Most clubs and drivers drive responsibly, off road and on. But a notable minority do not. Drivers need to respect others who use the countryside, whether to make a living or to enjoy its life-affirming beauty.

Usually disputes on these matters involve civil law: trespass is a civil offence. Local authorities, Natural Resources Wales and private individuals deal with these. Some disputes may involve traffic offences, however, which the police can investigate.

What is clear is that everyone will have to work closely together to tackle the problem. Because in rural areas, antisocial driving is a nuisance to communities off the road as well as on it. We learnt last week just how dangerous it is too.

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