Spring is on the way and the days are getting warmer. It is a perfect excuse to get the car out of the garage and join your fellow club members on an afternoon run. However, a nice drive around the countryside to the strains of ‘Born To Be Wild’ (get your motor runnin’…) will soon be replaced by ‘Breaking The Law’ as such a spontaneous run is now a legal impossibility in Northern Ireland.
The Parades Commission for Northern Ireland (PCNI) is an independent non-governmental organisation which, although it can’t ban events, has the power to place legally binding restrictions on public processions and any subsequent protest. All parade organisers in Northern Ireland must now inform the PCNI if they are planning an event.
The majority of parades in Northern Ireland are generally considered to be ‘non-contentious’ but the legislation affects groups running social, civic and fundraising events such as primary schools, scouts, church groups, running clubs, cycling clubs; scooter, motorbike and car clubs as well as local businesses. The only current exemptions are for funerals and the Salvation Army.
Although parades, in themselves, may not be illegal, the legislation can create several offences if the Parades Commission decides to impose restrictions. The event organiser becomes legally responsible for the parade and can be fined or may face up to six months imprisonment for failing to notify the police about a planned parade, or if they fail to comply with any conditions imposed.
Form 11/1 Application Process
Clubs planning a run need to fill in an eight page form called an 11/1 (eleven-bar-one) and submit it to a local police station at least 28 days before the planned date; although a recent change means that the form can now be submitted online. The police will then pass the form to the Parades Commission for consideration.
The form lists the name and contact details of the organiser and the outgoing and return route. It also asks for details of the marshals including their names, experience, qualifications; whether they will be wearing a uniform or armband and how they will communicate with each other and the emergency services.
Generally, clubs do not get a receipt from the police station so have no proof that they submitted the form within the correct timeframe. The Parades Commission will only contact an organiser if the event is considered to be contentious or if the form was not submitted inside the 28 day deadline – clubs have to assume that no news means that the event can go ahead!
A list of planned events is published on the Parades Commission website including any restrictions. Vehicle Processions are now marked with hastags i.e. ##
The Parades Commission classifies notified parades as Loyalist, Nationalist and Other; the latter covering a range of events including car clubs runs. Although parades numbers have steadily increased each year, the ‘Other’ grouping has remained below 30%.
|Year||Number of Parades||Other %|
|2003/2004||750 parades||Other 26%|
|2006/2007||1000 parades||Other 25%|
|2013/2014||1780 parades||Other 28%|
So called ‘contentious‘ parades have remained at 5% of the annual totals.
It was a shock for old vehicle clubs in Northern Ireland to discover that they were included within legislation designed to deal with ‘contentious’ parades. By now, clubs have had several years to assess the impact of the legislation on how they plan, organise and manage runs.
However, a few early incidents (not involving classic vehicle clubs) did cause some concern; namely an organiser being fined £1000 because a non-notified participant joined their parade on the day and a circus animal keeper being told by the police that stopping to exercise two elephants in a local town constituted an illegal parade.
These incidents raised several questions for vehicle clubs – what happens if other members decide to join the run at the last minute; do cars on their way back from a static event meeting or stuck at roadworks become a parade; what happens if a member breaks down or decides to travel home by another route?
Hopefully common sense has prevailed but there is still uncertainty around the issue. For instance, clubs generally advise their members to leave a suitable distance between their cars when returning from static events or when meeting other enthusiasts on the road, just in case.
A few old vehicle clubs did try to gain an exemption along the lines of that granted to the Salvation Army; mainly through a campaign organised by the Association of Old Vehicle Clubs in Northern Ireland (AOVC NI). Despite the then Northern Ireland Secretary of State promising an exemption for old vehicle clubs, the 11/1 form remains.
However, a PCNI Review of Procedures report in 2006 did note that the Commission:
Run organisers in Northern Ireland either look at the 11/1 form as a necessary evil or a distraction from other work within the club but it can be argued that it sets the scene for restricting the use of vintage and classic vehicles on the road.
Indeed, the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs (FBHVC) have reported that a High Court Injunction granted to several local councils in the West Midlands, and designed to prohibit car cruising, may impact old vehicle gatherings.
Interestingly, the injunction creates a specific power of arrest which could be used against a classic vehicle owner. A breach of the injunction could result in a fine and/or two years imprisonment, much longer than the six months prescribed by the Northern Ireland legislation.
Article originally published by ClubWorks [January 2016; updated February 2023]
Main Image Credit: Max Andrey, Pexels