Environment Minister Sammy Wilson last night branded the law which saw him fined for riding his motorbike without tax or MoT as “absurd”.
The Minister, who has responsibility for road safety in Northern Ireland, was caught by a camera detection unit on the Newtownards Road in east Belfast — a short distance from the Stormont Parliament Buildings.
As revealed by the Belfast Telegraph’s sister paper, the Sunday Life, the East Antrim MP was taking his bike to a garage to have it serviced for an MoT test four days later.
Calling for a review of the law, the bike-mad politician — he has five motorcycles — said: “I suspect there are a lot of people who take their cars which are neither taxed or MoT’d to go and get them checked before an MoT so they don't fail.
“Probably they don't know they are breaking the law, I certainly did not know I was breaking the law.”
He added: “I still think the interpretation of the law, in the eyes of most people, would seem to be absurd.”
Mr Wilson also said he is annoyed that a member of his department leaked details of how he had been caught riding his motorbike without tax or MoT.
Speaking to the Sunday Life he said he believes details of his fine were leaked by one of his own officials, adding: “It’s very annoying actually when someone from my department leaks this information to the media.
“Only the department would have known about this. If they leak something like this what’s to stop them leaking other information of a more sensitive nature.”
After receiving the £40 fine and ordered to pay back-tax for the vehicle, Mr Wilson failed in a bid to have the fixed penalty dismissed.
Said the Roads Minister: “I remember passing the camera at the time and never thought anything about it to tell you the truth.
“I have another bike which has not been on the road for five years, but I’m scared stiff to drive it in case I get stopped again for driving without an MoT.
“The insurance covered me and there would have been more of an issue if I had been driving it, if it had failed the MoT.
“I wrote to the DVA about this. If I had been in Portrush or Enniskillen I could understand them asking me what I was doing there.
“But I gave them all the details about what I was doing driving to Belfast.”
He added: “I would be interested to know if they have exercised discretion in other examples because I’m sure I’m not the first person to be caught doing this.
“I suspect because I am the Roads Minister they abided by the letter of the law.
“This was not an oversight by me. I genuinely believed that it was perfectly legitimate for me to drive the bike to get it fixed for MoT.”
I’m sure I’m not the first person to be caught doing this. I suspect because I am the Roads Minister they abided by the letter of the law
Mr Wilson also believes current legislation on driving vehicles before they have been put through an MoT test should be reviewed. “I’m very annoyed with the stupidity of the rules. You can drive a vehicle if it has failed the MoT but you can’t drive it to the garage before it goes through the test.
“The law states that I should have taken the bike on a trailer. I suspect there are thousands of bikers who would quite legitimately get their bikes on the road before they go for MoT,” he added.
The Department of Environment (DoE) released a statement: “A motorcycle registered to the Minister was detected by a Driver Vehicle Agency camera detection unit when it was on the road while unlicensed.
“The case was dealt with using standard procedures applied to all such detections and the appropriate penalty paid. The vehicle is now licensed.”