To delve further into this curious topic and work out why, we need to look into our legal system.

We operate distinctly different courts in England and Wales. The magistrates’ court is the first criminal court you will ever deal with, with more serious matters going up to the Crown Court.

All criminal matters must start in the magistrates’ court. Even a murder trial starts here, although it is just a gateway hearing to pass it up to the Crown Court.

Similarly, the county court will deal with civil matters (amongst others) with the high court dealing with more serious claims. It is down to the lawyers to decide on the correct forum to bring a claim – which is why having a decent lawyer fighting your corner is so important.


There is a surprising amount of overlap between the criminal and civil courts. One very sad case springs to mind, in which my client was riding a Kawasaki motorcycle with his partner riding pillion on the back.

At a junction a 4×4 pulled out and there was a collision. The rider was injured, but sadly the pillion was a fatality.

Both the driver of the 4×4 and the motorcyclist were charged with causing death by dangerous driving. After a five-day trial, the person who was driving the 4X4 was acquitted by the jury, but the rider was convicted. I suspect there could have been some ‘anti-biker’ sentiment here amongst the jury.

I was instructed to sue the 4×4 driver in the civil court. As we had a criminal conviction against my biker client, it was not possible to win 100%. That would be impossible, given the fact the criminal court had found the biker’s riding to have fallen below the standard.

Two courts cannot reach different findings in the UK.

Pressing on…

However, it was still possible to argue that the 4X4 driver contributed to the index accident and that it wasn’t entirely the fault of the motorcyclist. We pressed on – and despite a blanket defence by the 4X4 driver’s legal team, three weeks before trial they offered my client a sum of money to avoid actually having to go to trial.

And so we won… although of course we never had our day in court where we could prove what blame really lay at the 4X4 driver’s feet.

This is a common tactic in civil claims – ie, the defendant makes an offer of money to stop a claim in its tracks and avoid a public hearing. You’ll perhaps have seen this happen during the Prince Andrew and Virginia Giuffre sex scandal.

Whilst this does not formally show an admission of guilt or blame when a claimant is paid off, it does obviously tend to suggest there was in fact a solid case that was being mounted by the claimant.

Gavin Grewal

Bike Magazine December 2023