I was watching 24 Hours in Police Custody and saw the case about Adam White. He is a fellow biker. He was about to be burgled and have his motorcycle stolen, He chased the criminals away on foot (and then later in his car) when there was an accident in which the two burglars were knocked off their getaway bike and injured. Apparently, they are suing Adam White and his insurer for compensation. Is this even legal? If so, it does not sound fair!


This is quite a famous case for all the wrong reasons. There was a public outcry as Adam White was jailed for causing serious injury by dangerous driving. He lost his job and actually went to prison; his sentence wasn’t suspended. You are correct, he drove his Mercedes motorcar at them and knocked them off their getaway motorcycle.

The burglars were initially hospitalised with a mixture of broken bones and a bleed on the brain. They were both later charged with attempted burglary. They both received suspended prison sentences – i.e., they didn’t spend a day in prison. They had lots of previous for burglary and other offences; Adam White had never been in trouble with the police before – and this is why it was headline news.

You can act in defence of your person and property. If Adam White had been confronted by the burglars, he could use reasonable force against them. They were armed with bolt cutters. I suspect the force he could have used would have been quite high at that point. However, when they began to flee, the ‘act of burglary’ had stopped and therefore he had no legal protection when he drove at them, running them down.

The answer to your question is therefore a simple ‘yes, it is legal’ to sue someone for knocking you off your bike. Even if you are a burglar trying to get away.

That does sound awfully unfair, but the law is quite clear on this point.

As a general rule, if you are injured in a motorcycle accident, you have three years to bring your claim for damages. I have seen the online news that the burglars are suing Adam White for a million pounds. That appears to be a clickbait title. While Adam White is likely to be named in those civil proceedings and his conviction for careless driving referred to, it is probably his insurer who will be paying the damages (if any).

There is a legal principle known as ex turpi causa, which is a public policy principle that no court will assist a claimant who has been guilty of an illegal act. If this is made out, they won’t be getting a million pounds – they will get nothing. So yes, they can sue Adam White. Whether they get anything is to be determined.

This is thankfully a rare occurrence but worth writing about as motorcycle theft is on the rise. It is perfectly proper to defend yourself, and your property, and it is worthwhile investing in a chain and lock. CCTV might also help.

The law isn’t destined to change on this subject, so it is important to know what you can and cannot do, legally.

Gavin Grewal

Fast Bikes Magazine – March 2023