|“You’re nicked sunshine”|
Fred Hill had been a keen motorcyclist ever since his youth. During the Second World War he was a motorcycle dispatch rider. He left the Army and became a popular maths teacher.
In 1973 , when Fred was 64 the new road traffic act made it compulsory for motorcyclists to wear crash helmets. Fred, who never wore one, was annoyed by this but kept his concerns to his close circle of friends and family. He was a libertarian and believed what you did on matters that only affect you personally are no business of the state. Then in 1976, after lobbying by Sikhs, they were exempted from wearing crash helmets. This was the defining moment for Fred. He thought is was wrong that one community should be excepted from the law because of what they chose to believe, but libertarians such as himself shouldn’t because of what they chose to believe.
Fred decided to ignore the helmet law and ride his motorcycle regardless. He spoke at many demonstrations, which he always rode to helmetless. Consequently he was pulled over on numerous occasions and quite literally had a suitcase full of summonses. He never ever paid a fine or chose to answer them.
Therefore he was constantly being charged with contempt of court. This led to him being imprisoned on 31 separate occasions over a period of eight years. He never swore, committed violence, or insulted police or magistrates other than to treat them with complete disdain. He died in February 1984 in Pentonville Prison, aged 74.
He left us with one of the best quotes in British legal history. When a female magistrate berating Fred told him how wrong is was for him to break the law, he interrupted – “if it hadn’t been for some women breaking the law, you wouldn’t be sitting there now madam”.
Fred taught us what ultimately happens when you abandon the principle of equality under the law and pander to religious groups who kick up the most fuss. It is indefensible in a modern judicial system that you prosecute one community for crimes the other is legally except from. Be it road safety, animal welfare or women’s rights.
Owen “Barry Sheen” Jones