Use Your Head

Use Your Head

Wearing your lid at all times is often the smartest of choices.

I got off the ferry in Dover with my helmet and gloves in a cargo net, knowing I was going to have to get my passport out and show my face at passport control, when a ferry worker told me I needed to put my helmet on. I told him that as I was on private land I was not going to.

He shrugged, and about 30 seconds later a little Mercedes van pulled up and two ‘police officers’ got out. I say ‘police officers’. They had police helmets on and jackets that said Police, but the van had ‘Port of Dover Police’, which to my way of thinking says jumped up security guard, but rather than cause a delay I put my lid on as the ‘police’ approached me.

The older of the two ‘coppers’ told me to keep my helmet on whilst moving, and buckle it up, and if I did not buckle it up he would be nicking me, and he would be keeping an eye on me. He was perfectly civil, but it was obvious that I had annoyed him.

I felt a strong urge to tell him he was welcome to try buckling my helmet up for me, but I left it. Are these blokes real police? And do I have to wear a helmet on private land?


These blokes are real police. The Port of Dover Police are most definitely real police officers with real powers of arrest, real nasty spray for your face if you get a little bit too stroppy, really big sticks and a van full of mates with similar spray and sticks if things get ugly.

Most large ports have a police force, and are governed largely by the rules that govern any other police force. Technically they are a private police force and they are appointed as special constables by the local magistrates, albeit unlike specials in most other forces, they are full-time and professional officers who are paid.

You do not have to wear a helmet on private land, but the Port of Dover, whilst owned privately, is, as a matter of law, a ‘dock road’, to which the public have access by invitation, and the Road Traffic Acts most deftniiely apply in the Port of Dover, and every other British port. I get why you do not want to have your helmet and gloves on until you have cleared passport control.

I, too, have been scolded at Santander, Dover and Hook of Holland for riding without my helmet. I smiled politely, looked sheepish and put my lid on.

They definitely have full police powers when within a mile vicinity of the Port of Dover. They can arrest you, commence a prosecution and do most things a small town police force could do. I think it is a matter of custom that they do not use their jurisdiction significantly outside the Port of Dover, but as a matter of law they are holders of the office of constable.

They have exactly the same police powers under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act to require proof of your identity, and if you fail to provide proof of identity they can arrest you for that, and bang you up until such time as you have answered.

I have no idea if there are cells at the Port of Dover, but I suspect there probably are. As a general rule of thumb, if in a British port a man in a pointy hat with Police written on his stab vest tells you to put your helmet on and buckle it up, it is a good idea to put your helmet on and buckle it up.

Andrew Dalton

Fast Bikes July 2019

Disclaimer: The legal advice and statements contained within this/these articles is correct at the time of printing. If you are seeking legal advice after a motorbike accident please contact us to speak directly with one of our lawyers.


  1. What a twat!

  2. craig sifleetJanuary 3, 2020

    Yes they are, and as a matter of fact , Dock authority police have right of entry to any dwelling, building, warehouse within 5 miles of the docks ,and don’t require a search warrant.

  3. Richard TaylorJanuary 4, 2020

    Ferry ramps are often very slippery with water and diesel spills, so I would suggest a very good place to WEAR you helmet properly. I’ve never been asked to remove mine at passport control, I just lift the chin bar of my flip front.

  4. Andrew DaltonJanuary 6, 2020

    I have now stopped coming off ferries without my helmet on, as every time I get scolded and put it back on. I didn’t mention it to my angry correspondent but if someone is clearly dressed as a police officer wearing police markings then unless they are a police officer they are committing a pretty serious offence. A grown man, in a public area, in daylight is not especially likely to be the target of a fake copper.

  5. I agree with the helmet law but I dont agree to it not being used because the person uses a turban .. can any one what safety. Kite EU reg a turban Carrie’s.???????

    What about Christians not wearing a helmet because the go bare headed before there god will plod or the wee angry man in port police van alow it . ????,
    If they use a turban go some where take it off put a helmet on . Or buy a flip up front .. what about rastas do they ware helmets over there dregs ?????

    So much to jump on one guy who’s not got his on as I’m sure you fall off you be sorry you didnt have your lid on .
    Dont go all out on one lot then let another lot off .

  6. Andrew DaltonJanuary 10, 2020

    There is a specific exemption for observant Sikhs who wear a turban not to wear a helmet as no helmet can fit on a turban. As to Rastas with big dreads, a helmet can go over hair albeit I would not be that confident about a helmet staying on big and thick dreads as they are soft. In all my years riding I have only ever seen on Sikh riding in a turban so it really is not a big issue. The Port Police would not be able to do much if an observant Sikh was not wearing his helmet but rocking a turban but the law accommodates people. I am not a Sikh but I know even a very skilled guy putting his turban on takes a fair while. I cannot get as wound up about it as you have. I don’t suppose many turbaned Sikh bikers would go to France because I don’t think the French have an exemption.

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Posted by Andrew Dalton. Last modified: January 3, 2020 at 10:42 am

Andrew Dalton is a highly experienced trial lawyer who delights in taking on difficult and demanding motorcycle cases. He has a tough and relentless litigation style and is utterly focused on getting the best possible outcomes for his clients.

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