There was one infamous case where the Crown Court upheld a Magistrates conviction whereby a lead rider who could not be shown traveling at a speed greater than 83mph was sentenced on the basis of the fastest rider in the group, who was doing, apparently, 103mph to catch up. That case provides no authority or precedent. It does not, contrary to some reports, make new law. The case cannot be cited in a prosecution because it is not from a senior enough Court.

There is another more sensible decision taken in a very sad case where a group of riders were riding in such an exuberant style that they were successfully prosecuted for dangerous driving. The Crown also tried to prosecute them for causing death by dangerous driving when one of the riders in the group tragically died. The Crown Court judge directed that the jury could not convict on causing death by dangerous driving but all of the riders received long bans for dangerous riding.

There is a lot of nonsense on the forums about the duties and responsibilities of riders while riding in a group. The law is simple enough: a group leader owes the duty of care that all road users owe all other road users. So, for example a ride leader who slams on his brakes for no good reason would be liable for other riders who go into the back of him, but not because he is the ride leader but because he is riding like a muppet.

Everyone riding in a group owes the others the following duties: to ride at a speed with sufficient distance to be able to stop for foreseeable hazards, to ride with reasonable care and skill, and if being overtaken to maintain a safe and steady course. None of these propositions of law and common sense are different to road users riding individually or in a group.

Where the criminal law bites on groups of motorcyclists is when they are riding in a way which can be perceived as racing. The criminal Courts crack down hard on racing on the public roads. The law is statutory and if vehicles, whether organised or not compete for speed on the highway, this can constitute a race and if proven, a long ban is inevitable.

If you are riding briskly with a group of friends bear in mind that what you think is brisk a driver may regard as breakneck speed – so don’t overtake each other. That leaves you vulnerable to speeding charges if you ride badly, but it keeps racing off the charge sheet. Racing is a major aggravating factor in sentencing and if witnesses give evidence from which an inference can be drawn that you were competing for speed on the highway the law will come down very hard on you.

Andrew Dalton

Bike Magazine – March 2017