Teen sentenced following police's first use of DNA tagging spray

New tactic: The DNA-based spray.
New tactic: The DNA-based spray.

A teenager has become the first person in West Yorkshire to be sentenced after police began using a new DNA-based spray to catch off-road riders.

Connor Walker, 18, of South Elmsall was sprayed by a PCSO who watched and filmed him committing offences on a quad bike in the town on May 28 this year.

The spray marked Walker and the vehicle, indisputably linking him to the offence, police said.

He was identified, arrested and charged in what was the Wakefield South East Neighbourhood Policing Team's first use of the new tactic.

Walker pleaded guilty to two offences of dangerous driving and driving without a licence.

He was sentenced to 15 months in prison, suspended for 18 months, and a curfew.

Inspector Paul Sullivan

Inspector Paul Sullivan

Inspector Paul Sullivan said: "By spraying the riders and the vehicle they are on while they are offending, our officers effectively 'tie' them to the offence, proving beyond doubt that they were the person filmed offending.

“We are delighted to have achieved our first positive result in court and hope Walker's conviction demonstrates to anyone involved in this type of behaviour that no matter if you wear a headscarf, helmet or balaclava, your anonymity can’t be guaranteed.”

Officers began using the tactic to try and tackle the "out of control" problem of dangerous anti-social and off-road riding in the South East of Wakefield.

It could now be rolled out across the district.

Each can of the spray contains a unique chemical signature, which marks the driver and the vehicle.

Police can check the tag under UV light, meaning they are able to match the spray can with individuals and vehicles.

Inspector Sullivan said: "We are very conscious of the impact of anti-social off road riding on our communities in Pontefract, Castleford and South East areas.

"It is no exaggeration to say the actions of some of these people had been spiralling out of control.

"We have seen offences being committed almost daily in communities, risking the safety of members of the public and the riders themselves, some of whom have been injured through their own behaviour.

"As a result we have acquired and been trialling a new DNA spray to 'tag' offenders in the act.

"It is a harmless, odourless and invisible solution, naked to the eye and is proving invaluable in helping us solve the problem of identifying offenders.”

Police said incidents of anti-social off-road riding in the area had dropped by around 32 per cent since the middle of the summer, following "sustained action" to tackle and arrest those involved.

Chief Superintendent Mabs Hussain, District Commander of Wakefield Police, said: "Reducing levels of illegal off road riding has been a key concern for us in the Wakefield district and we have been working hard with partners across the force to target offenders and raise awareness of the dangers of this activity.

"Clearly the successful trial of this innovative new DNA spray is welcome news.

"We are examining widening deployment of this new tool across the district and I can promise those who we catch in the act that they will be identified.”