DANGEROUS bikers were warned today to stay away from North Yorkshire after four motorcyclists were given suspended jail sentences for a high-speed, 145-mile ride which ended in the tragic death of a fifth rider.

Chief Superintendent Ali Higgins, of North Yorkshire Police, said the county was a magnet for bikers. While they added to the area’s vibrancy, officers would not tolerate anyone who came to the area to ride dangerously and unlawfully.

She said the message to such people was: “Don’t come to North Yorkshire or you will face the full force of the law.”

The four – Paul Andrew Backhouse 48, of Thorpe Audlin, Pontefract, Kevin Moreton, 49, of Ferrybridge, Peter Jackson, 48, of Knottingley and Andre Paul Holland, 35, of South Kirby, Pontefract – were convicted of dangerous driving at York Crown Court last month.

But they were cleared of causing the death by dangerous driving on the Sherburn-in-Elmet bypass of the fifth member of their party, Martin Firth, 33, of Beal, near Goole. They had denied the charges.

At York Crown Court yesterday, all four received a nine-month jail sentence, suspended for two years, with conditions that Backhouse, Moreton and Holland carry out 250 hours’ unpaid work and Jackson has 12 months’ supervision.

All were ordered to pay £1,250 prosecution costs, apart from Jackson who has to pay £250. All four were banned from driving for four years, after which they will have to re-take their driving tests. Judge Stephen Ashurst told them: “All four of you were old enough to know better.”

He said they were otherwise respectable men, three of them in jobs, who had been given many testimonials by family, friends and employers.

“The only sensible conclusion is that the four of you had some blind spot as far as driving was concerned.”

He had wondered at first if they had been naïve or stupid but concluded there was a “degree of arrogance”.

He said he had faced a “knife-edge” decision as to whether or not to suspend the jail sentence, and recognised that whatever sentence he imposed would be open to criticism. Had the jury found the four responsible for Mr Firth’s death, they would have been facing five-year jail sentences. The judge said he had been told in reports that they had been devastated by Mr Firth’s death.

However, he could not ignore the fact that three of them had only two years previously witnessed the consequences of high-speed biking, when they saw a crash in the Sherburn area in which a motorcyclist travelling at 120mph and a car driver had been killed.

Judge Ashurst said he also reflected the fact that three of them, as well as Mr Firth, had worn yellow vests with the word “TWATS” (Two Wheeled Advanced Training School) on them, indicating a degree of premeditation.

He said there was compelling evidence that during their 145-mile ride through North and East Yorkshire, there had been grossly excessive speed, competitive driving and risk-taking.