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