Question mark over charity Boundary 500 Motorcycle Santa Ride as Cleveland Police pulls support

The annual Boundary 500 Motorcycle Group Santa Ride attracts crowds of up to 100,000 people and raises around £30,000 a year for Teesside's baby hospice
-Credit: (Image: Karen Harland Photography)

Organisers of an annual Santa ride and the charity it supports say they feel they have no choice but to cancel the event after Cleveland Police pulled some of its support.

Boundary 500 Motorcycle Club has held the 22-mile Santa Ride for 17 years with the help of a police motorcycle escort - but were stunned when Cleveland Police said it would be "unable to assist" with the vehicle "this year and going forward".

Brian Laverick, the founder of the event - which attracts crowds of up to 100,000 people - added that on safety grounds they would not be able to hold the event without the support of the force. However, Cleveland Police has stated: "The force has not cancelled the event."

And, Zoe's Place Baby Hospice which benefits to the tune of around £30,000 a year from the fundraiser, said it will be losing an important lifeline at a time when things are already very difficult. The cash generated from the event provides 31 days care to one baby at the hospice.

Cleveland Police said a meeting has been arranged and that the organisers were previously told there would have to be some change to the format. Brian said the ride was planned to take place on Saturday, November 30, but he had been informed by Cleveland Police Events Team in a letter that the road policing unit are "unable to assist with a motorcycle escort for the Santa Ride this year and going forward".

Brian Laverick at Zoe's Place Baby hospice in Normanby. Here he is presenting Sharon Westcough with a certificate for being a top fundraiser.
Brian Laverick at Zoe's Place Baby hospice in Normanby. Here he is presenting Sharon Westcough with a certificate for being a top fundraiser. -Credit:Evening Gazette

Brian said: "I don't want to knock the police, I am a huge supporter of the police and I am so very grateful for the support they have given over the past 17 years, but I just find it confusing." He said on safety grounds they could not continue without officers as it is such a long route with lots of traffic lights and officers provide a rolling road closure.

Brian, himself a former police officer, said: "The road policing unit has provided usually six police officers and their vehicles for no more than three hours. Unless things have changed dramatically since I was a police officer the road policing unit was there to assist policing districts with events such as this.

"The involvement of the police motorcycle section has been to safeguard the procession vehicles and occupants plus other road users due to the number of junctions and traffic controlled areas that it traverses. The police motorcycle section has also been paramount in controlling the huge numbers of onlookers so as to ensure the safety of everyone supporting this event. I have to be honest and say that the police response I find very sad and short sighted."

Joan Stainsby, executive trustee at Zoe’s Place Baby Hospice, said: "We are deeply concerned about the news that this year's Boundary 500 Motorcycle Santa Ride might be cancelled. This cherished event has been a highlight for our community since 2006, bringing joy, unity, and crucial financial support to our hospice.

"The Santa Ride is more than just a festive gathering; it has been a lifeline, raising up to £30,000 annually. The three-hour Boundary 500 ride generates sufficient income to enable us to provide 31 days care to one of our babies at the hospice, providing essential care and support to families in their most vulnerable moments. The police presence is vital, not just for traffic control but for safeguarding the large crowds that gather to witness this beloved event.

"The possible cancellation of this event comes as we grapple with an economic downturn, where every pound raised is crucial to our baby hospice operations. The potential loss of income if the Santa ride was cancelled means we face even greater challenges in maintaining our services, which so many local families rely on.

"Thank you to everyone who has supported us over the years. Your dedication has helped the Boundary 500 group raise over £400,000 for Zoe's Place through this event alone, and over £870,000 for local charities across the region."

'The force has not cancelled the event'

A spokesperson for Cleveland Police said: "Cleveland Police has been in contact with the Santa Ride event organiser and a meeting has been arranged to discuss the requirements of the event and to remind the organiser of their obligations. Cleveland Police will always ensure that public events are managed in accordance with statutory guidelines and legislation to ensure safety of all those involved.

"The force has not cancelled the event. Cleveland Police officers advised the event organisers previously that there would need to be a change of format for the 2024 event."

Police and Crime Commissioner Matt Storey said: "The Boundary 500 Santa Run is a fantastic community event, which has brought delight to families across the Teesside area for many years. As Police and Crime Commissioner, by law I cannot ask the force to deploy officers to specific events. When contacted by event organisers, my office informed them it would be best to direct their query to Cleveland Police.

"I was not involved in any further decision-making regarding the event. This morning I requested an update from the force's senior leaders, following the announcement from organisers that the event had been cancelled. I understand the police will be meeting with event organisers to discuss a way forward."

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