The sight of MP for Mid Sussex Nicholas Soames driving a quad bike down a road with three children in a trailer behind has caused controversy and a police investigation.

It came days after a seven-year-old girl was killed in an accident involving a similar vehicle. For some it was a gaffe too far but for others what he does in his leisure time is not up for scrutiny. Naomi Loomes reports.

Nicholas Soames is under scrutiny because of his decision to take to the road during the Crawley and Horsham Hunt on new year's day.

He was sat on a quad bike pulling along four adults and three children who were standing in a small trailer.

Experts estimated the bike should only carry 18 to 20 stones, but that didn't prevent the 59-year-old grandson of Winston Churchill allowing his passengers to squeeze into the trailer and one boy to perch, with no safety belt, on what appeared to be a palette on the back of the bike.

On boxing day, seven-year-old Elizabeth Cooke was killed in Essex when she took her quad bike on a public road and collided with a car.

Police are trying to determine whether Mr Soames was committing any criminal offences by taking the bike on to the road close to his home at Bells Farm in Plummers Plain, near Haywards Heath.

Many think it is irrelevant whether or not the bike was registered with the DVLA saying the problem was that he was putting his passengers at undue risk.

Mr Soames is said to have dismissed the issue as a high-profile scalp by anti-hunt protesters, but others feel he should be more aware of the law and the precedent he sets for others.

Serena Tiernay, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Mid Sussex

"This was a serious misjudgement on Nicholas Soames' part. Not only the misjudgement of knowing that protesters would be there and likely to have cameras but more importantly an ill-judged act, full stop.

"I'm glad no one was hurt, but it certainly didn't seem like a safe thing to be doing. He has to consider the fact that he may not only be putting himself at risk but others as well.

"It is up to the police to investigate whether he was breaking any laws but as a political figure he must be aware that people will be influenced by what he does.

"He generates publicity and attention which means he is automatically capable of setting an example.

"An MP partaking in an act which may leave people hurt sends out the wrong message as to what people can and should do.

"He should have considered safety implications. I think he was very naive.

"Relatively few people will identify with what he's doing or this way of life. Many more people will find it unacceptable."

Christopher Wysock-Wright, from the Countryside Alliance

"Nicholas was supporting his wife, Serena, at the hunt. Following horses and hounds on a quad bike towing a trailer is common practice.

It's a part of living and growing up in the countryside.

"Children spend their childhoods being towed by tractors, bikes, Land Rovers. They're not always strapped in. Often they're only going on a short trip. It would cost a fortune to abide every health and safety precaution.

"It isn't in the slightest bit illegal to ride a quad on the roads, as long as you have an agricultural dispensation licence for roads and I would be surprised if Nicholas didn't have one - so much so I'd put money on it.

"All quads tend to have number plates, a horn, a speedometer and an indicator. I very much doubt Nicholas's vehicle lacked any of these things.

"I'm sure he knew about the little girl who had been killed in the days before and I'm sure he was aware of the need to drive safely.

"This is a question of Nicholas's freedom of lifestyle. He was not riding the quad into Westminster. He was not pursuing parliamentary activities.

"The basis of our confidence in him as our MP is his support for all things rural. His popularity lies in us seeing him as part of it.

"It's more important that he led a popular campaign to save the A&E at the Princess Royal Hospital, that he has visited every primary school in the area and his door is open to constituents every Friday."

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