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The Debate about Evidence                                                     Back to Other Liverpool-London stuff

Around this time, some RRA Committee members got a bit frustrated that I wasn't following the established protocols from record attempts of the past.  My view, since vindicated, was that nothing in the rules required a certain practice to be followed, and so I chose not to follow it.

There are no specific requirements as to the evidence that an aspirant needs to support a claim to record.  However, it is generally accepted that if a claim is backed up by a fairly complete observer's report (eg witnessed the vast majority of the ride and saw no problems) then this can easily 'tick most of the boxes'.   Additional to this report, the RRA is also keen to have further roadside checks made by unannounced individuals - just to further validate the integrity of the claim.  To support obtaining those roadside checks, the Secretary maintains a list of interested people who live near the various record routes.  When schedules are submitted, the Secretary would circulate copies to those people.  And when an attempt is actually going to take place, they will be asked to perform this discreet checking service for the RRA.

Historically, though, I'm told that aspirants would also get their own acquaintances (not known to the RRA) to go out onto the course and witness the rider going past.   Those people would then be asked (by the aspirant) to send a note to the RRA declaring that the rider had passed Point X at Time Y and the following car was at least 50 yards behind.
Whilst I was happy to ask the odd friend to witness me & send a note to the Secretary, I always took the view that such action was something of a desirable supplement rather than anything crucial.  The evidence provided could hardly be described as impartial, but it did at least mean that the RRA could add new names to their checkers lists.   I was also mindful that I had almost no chance of getting my friends out to witness anything a long way from home, and so really I would only do this sort of thing if I realised that there was someone I could ask.

However, I was clocking up quite a few claims and one or two people took the view that I was unacceptably missing out a step on what they saw as being a necessity - presumably because they, when aspirants themselves, had been expected to do it in the past. 

And so at the meeting following the Liverpool to London ride, I was informed that the committee felt that they didn't have sufficient evidence to accept my claim.   I was asked to provide more evidence from roadside checkers.
At this stage, I was obviously unclear as to what I was being asked for. I made a note of all of the checkers I could remember & asked the secretary who he was waiting to hear from.  His reply was this:

So I was being invited to provide evidence from people who I had asked to witness the ride. 

The basis for this request was noted as being Rule 45.  This rule is now known as 10.08, but the content is unchanged.  I'm paraphrasing, but it says that it is the aspirant's responsibility to provide sufficient proof to support his claim.  It then says that this can be done via an observer's report and/or by being observed by checkers at frequent intervals.

Yes, the rule contains "and/or".  I don't want to lead the witnesses here, but if I were to have to explain "and/or" to someone, I'd probably say that it means you can choose one option. or the other option, or both.

But I was now being told that not only does "and/or" mean "and" (which is to say that as well as the observer's report, we also demand checkers' reports), but we demand that you provide evidence from people who we probably don't know. 

There was no indication of any shortcomings in the observer's report, and (as the fax note above confirms) most of the people the RRA had asked to witness the ride had done so.

I was in a strange position.  I really didn't understand why something that had never been vital before, had suddenly become vital now.   Did the committee really think I knew enough people (not already on the RRA lists) between Liverpool and London that I would get them out to help me?   Did they really think that evidence from my friends/contacts should be the material to tip the balance in favour of accepting my claim?

And where in the rules was there anything talking about the need for any evidence from people who were basically strangers?   Contrarily, Rule 45 (10.08) also has a sentence saying that the committee reserves the right to reject evidence tendered by or obtained from interested sources.

But anyway, back to the plot.   I was being asked to provide some more material from people I had asked to be witnesses.   As there had been none of these, this was a problem.  

I wasn't sure what to do.   I could have just called the committee's bluff.  I could've waited for them to reject my claim and then gone through the appeal process, which would require a Special General Meeting.  It would have been very interesting to have experienced that journey, but would also have inevitably further deteriorated relations with those who had pushed this committee decision on me.

Luckily, I didn't have to do that.  It was pointed out to me that most of the roadside checkers were not standing alone - but probably only one of each pair or group would actually have sent a report to the secretary.   Thus, I contacted everyone who I could remember seeing on the ride and asked if their husband/wife/friend etc could send in a witness report on my behalf.    Absolutely farcical, but we did it.

At the next committee meeting, my claim was passed.  I cannot believe that the extra material I obtained made any difference to the sum-total of evidence available.  It seemed (and still seems) to me that I was just being made to do some extra work.

A spin-off from this was that I wrote a paper for the committee to consider, asking for clarity around what evidence was needed to support a claim.  It centred around the episode above, and explained that even if it were desirable for the aspirant to provide evidence obtained from persons other than RRA officials, the whole way the RRA operates with the list of official checkers would mean an aspirant making multiple attempts would rapidly find that he has no non-RRA contacts available.  (That is to say - you're only a rider-supplied checker once.  You then find yourself on the list of official checkers.)
The paper didn't go down very well with some people, and indeed one person produced quite an extraordinary reply which made his discomfort very clear.

I was under the impression that it was going to be a hard job to get any agreement on (a) what evidence the aspirant had to produce/arrange, and (b) whether there was deemed to be any value in evidence supplied by persons unknown to the RRA.    So you can imagine my surprise when an announcement was made at the start of almost the next meeting I attended.   It had been agreed that it was not mandatory to have roadside checks, and also that it was preferred that any roadside checks were arranged by the RRA and not the aspirant.   

Clearly there had been discussions going on behind my back.  I didn't mind the overall result, but it annoyed me that nobody actually said "ok, it looks like I got this wrong".  I'd been put through a whole load of grief, and eventually it ended by being told that the committee agreed with me - despite previously being told for about 6 months that I was completely wrong and behaving indefensively.

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