First Person: Helmet law attacks motorcyclists' personal choice and dignity
FRED Hill died in custody in 1984 aged 74, halfway through a 60-day sentence imposed under the law that criminalises motorcyclists who fail to wear crash helmets when riding.
A former Army dispatch rider during the Second World War, Fred worked as a mathematics teacher, before retiring.
Incensed by the compulsory helmet law, Fred rode everywhere in a beret.
Fred's refusal to pay the fines constituted contempt of court, for which he was jailed 31 times.
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Fred loathed prison life and once wrote a disturbing account of his experiences: "What is a man deprived of his name, his freedom of movement taken away, his every privacy invaded, every move spied upon, locked away in a filthy cell for 23 hours out of the 24 hours – and half of these miserable hours spent in darkness".
A member of the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG), Fred rode on many protest rides all over the country.
Fred made speeches at the demonstrations, dressed in his arrow-patterned prison uniform and exercising his Yorkshire wit.
Once, in the dock of a magistrates' court where a lady magistrate berated him, Fred reminded her that if it hadn't been for suffragettes breaking the law, she wouldn't be sitting where she was that day.
Fred was imprisoned 31 times, his final sentence of 60 days in mid-winter proving too much to take.
The helmet law has made no difference to motorcycle accident fatalities but served to focus attention on surviving accidents rather than preventing them.
In this age of obsessive legislation, many people appear intellectually incapable of distinguishing between a precaution that has some merit and a draconian law enforcing its observation.
The helmet law is an illustration of ill-conceived, disproportionate and ineffective legislation that reflects contempt for those at whom it is directed.
MAG has never been against helmet use, we simply feel that is wrong to criminalise those who choose what to wear when riding.
Road safety is far more about what is inside your head than what you wrap around it.
If we ever concede that the Government has the right to dictate to us in this way then we concede that, ultimately, they have the right to tell us what to ride or drive or what not to ride or drive at all.
Life is ultimately about choice. Withdraw choice and you attack dignity.
Fred Hill defended more than just motorcycling, he defended human dignity.
For more information, visit www.mag-uk.org