Perhaps luckily for me, experience from two tours of Afghanistan helped me notice a youth with a hoodie pulled up over his face and wearing gloves, pressing a pedestrian-controlled light in London.
My first though was ‘dicker’* and I saw his hood move in a nod. The lights changed to red and I stopped. A two-up scooter pulled out from a side road, rode around me and stopped directly in my path, ahead of the solid white line.
I was already on alert and in my mirror, I could see three other scooters, some two-up, rolling towards me. I knew I was about to be boxed in, so I deliberately rode my front wheel into the rear wheel of the scooter in front of me, knocking the rider and pillion to the floor. I rode up the pavement and turned around and came back at the three individuals; more were now gathering around the lads I just knocked off.
They were all wearing puffer Jackets, black visors and bandanas and gloves – I could not tell what gender, race or age any of them were. I had no time for heroics, so I was on my toes and rode back in the direction that I had come. When I got in, my wife immediately panicked and said that I had been involved in an accident and had to report it to the police. As far as I am concerned it was not an accident. I did it deliberately and with good reason. I am now getting worried. Am I in trouble?
You certainly have been in a lot worse trouble, with two tours under your belt and it is just as well that you listened to your instincts, because everything you say makes it sound as if you were being set up to have your bike stolen. As a matter of law. Section 170 of The Road Traffic Act applies, which states that: “The driver of a mechanically propelled vehicle must stop and, if required to do so by any person having reasonable grounds for so requiring, give his name and address.” It goes on to add that, if for any reason you do not give your address – and you believing that you were about to have your motorcycle robbed is indeed a perfectly proper reason – you are obliged to report the accident; “as soon as reasonably practicable and with any event within 24 hours” to a police constable. The reality is turning up at your local police station and giving your details to a police civilian worker would comply with that duty.
The rule of thumb is if you have an accident, you get yourself to the police station as the very next thing that you do. There is an old case from 1974 which says that 24 hours is the absolute outside within which time you must report but “as soon as reasonably practicable are words that bear their ordinary meaning” has been held to mean that you should ride straight to the nearest police station.
Clearly you have failed in that duty and past 24 hours, you cannot remedy the situation. Therefore, by keeping your head down and saying nothing, you are not making anything worse; you have already committed the offence but the chance of anything surfacing from it are about nil. Everything you say gives me no doubt that you were being set up for a robbery. As a general proposition, the law is pretty forgiving of people who use the element of surprise, as you did, to escape a situation where a reasonable person would think they are likely to be either robbed or assaulted. Of course, in your case, both were looking pretty likely.
However, where I think you have done yourself a disservice is that if it transpires that these people were not, in fact, motorcycle robbers (though It really does sound like they were) and you deliberately banged into the back of somebody’s motorbike and then rode off, then failed to report, you would be looking at six points for failure to stop and report, probably eight points for driving without due care and a fine. You could also be facing the non-roadtraffic, but serious criminal, charge of assault as well.
So, for anyone else who finds themselves in this situation, your reaction was proportionate and reasonable, and once the adrenaline had died down, you really should have gone straight to a police station. That is where you have gone wrong, but I suspect that nothing will come of It.
On a personal level, I hope that I would be as quick witted as you were.
RiDE Magazine November 2019