I hoisted a wheelie for the hell of it in a retail park, fairly late one evening. I accept this is naughty and I shouldn’t do it. I have been riding motocross and trials since the age of about 10 and I can wheelie from pretty low speed under perfect control, both clutch and throttle.
My problem was that during a wheelie I mono wheeled over a dropped beef burger and that totally unsettled the bike. I lost it and my bike hit a builder’s van. The builder then got out of the van, dragged me to my feet and punched me hard in the ribs and kidneys, quite a few times. He knew what he was doing. I later found out he had been a pretty decent amateur boxer. Pity he didn’t hit my head in my helmet. The staff at the burger place had all of this on tape and the police turned up. We were both arrested and we were both given ‘words of warning’ but no charge for fighting I wasn’t fighting, I was being hit.
I was charged with dangerous driving and represented myself at the magistrates’ court. A friend of mine is doing a law degree and she advised me to argue that the riding was not dangerous as I can wheelie safely and have done so many times. The burger was what caused the problem. The magistrates found me guilty and the magistrates Clerk was actually laughing during my defence. She seemed to be making all the decisions and told the magistrates that, “I did not have a defence recognised in English law,” which I think was showing clear bias against my Welsh accent.
My law student friend has said I should appeal as I have been banned for 18 months and will have to retake an extended test for my car and bike licence. I also got fined £750 and had to pay a victim surcharge, even though I was the victim in this. The cause of the crash was the burger and I was just unlucky, so I don’t see why I should be punished. Should I get a lawyer to help me with my appeal?
Ronald McDonald, London
Oh dear. Don’t bother with the appeal. You would have been much wiser speaking to a real lawyer before your court appearance because you would not have run a defence perfectly calculated to really annoy the
magistrates. Bless ’em. You have got to love law students who are a short way into their professional training and who learn law as a matter of theory. Your friend has muddled up civil causation and criminal conduct.
It is very dangerous taking advice from people with a little learning, but she has not, in reality, done you any harm. The offence is dangerous driving. The hoisting of a wheelie means you have lost pretty well all your braking, most of your forward vision, all of your steering and your bike is inherently unstable.
Sometimes magistrates can be sympathetic to an inadvertent wheelie on a machine you are not used to, but even that is cutting it a bit fine. However, you have deliberately chosen to wheelie in an area where you can harm both yourself and others. You have then made matters worse by telling the magistrates that because you wheelie a lot, it isn’t dangerous. I am not surprised the Court Clerk laughed. I couldn’t have kept a straight face.
I think any perceived anti-Welsh bias is a non starter. I would be very careful about appealing this. I think the magistrates have sentenced quite lightly. A circuit judge and two
magistrates (an appeal court from the magistrates) is likely to increase your sentence. You have got off pretty lightly. The test is ‘was your riding dangerous?’ The answer is absolutely, yes. Did the burger make you ride the way you did? No. I don’t think you made your sentence worse, but more by luck than judgment. Leave this well alone.
In so far as the quick fisted builder is concerned, you may have an argument that the damage to his vehicle was caused by the burger and had you not been wheelying there would be merit in this, but bearing in mind your luck and lack of insight, I would let your insurers deal with this. I would save your money on lawyers and spend it on 18 months worth of taxis and the huge insurance renewal you’ll be getting in 18 months time – if you pass your extended retest…
Fast Bikes July 2013
Andrew Dalton has been writing articles for Fast Bikes Magazine for a considerable period and have condensed what we believe are the most useful articles to you. White Dalton Motorcycle Solicitors deal with personal injury claims and our sister company, Motor Defence Solicitors, deal with any road traffic offences.