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Duty of Care??

March 23, 2011


Coningsby, England – Will we soon have to assume a legal duty of care for any other biker we chose to ride along with?           

This issue has been highlighted in the past week by the North Yorkshire Police charging five men, from the Bradford area of the UK, with causing deaths by dangerous driving. This follows an incident  in August 2010 when Dean and Helen Slater, from Thornton, Bradford, died when their motorcycle and a car crashed on the A162 between Tadcaster and Sherburn in Elmet.

As reported by the local press at the time Mr and Mrs Slater were riding a Yamaha R1 in a group of six bikes made up of four Yamaha R1s, a Honda CBR600 and a Honda CBR1000. It is alleged that the riding of some members of the group fell well below the required standard with one local report stating that: “joggers and a car driver had to take evasive action to avoid being struck by members of the group of motorcyclists.”

In 2009 a Chichester Crown Court ruled that a lead  rider be given the same speeding penalty as two following riders when in fact he was travelling slower that they were. In this case Barrister’s notes on the ruling revealed after the hearing stated that : “Although his was the lesser speed, [the bench] found it an aggravating feature that he was the lead motorcyclist, was setting the pace and he knew that the other two motorcyclists would want to catch him up and would be speeding to do so.”

Although both these cases were brought under laws pertaining to road traffic the police also have powers under a 300 year old Joint Enterprise Act. This allows  those playing a part in an unlawful act to be charged on the same basis as the  main perpetrator. Although this appears to be reserved for crimes of violence there is no reason why it could not be tested in court on other alleged illegal actions. Instance motorcycle rally’s or ride-outs.

If there is not already growing concern in the motorcycle community over this issue, there should be. Every summer  in the UK there are hundreds of organised charity rides, demonstrations and impromptu ride outs. Most lead by one person, either by desire or accident. It would seem that we are heading down a road, to a situation, where a ride leader will be wholly responsible for the actions of those following. Then what about the trainers, followed around by their groups of inexperienced fledgling riders and organisations like the UK Institute of Advanced Drivers (IAM) whose motorcycle “observers” have a habit of emphasising “progress” to trainees. Not to mention the dealers, is it possible an illegal act to sell high-powered motorcycle to a rider who is blatantly incapable of riding it?

Where does this end? With a safety audit, a risk assessment for every ride-out.

Only last week-end a rider who had declared his intention of attending the Warwickshire based Mike Hailwood Memorial Run was killed on his way to it. Is this the fault of the organisers?  Obviously not.

Obviously not is today’s answer, but with personal and collective responsibility an apparently movable feast will it be correct in five years time?

Enjoy your Spring riding.

© Back Roads Rider 2011

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Dave permalink
    March 23, 2011 11:07 am

    If you organise an official rally or ride out you should have liability insurance which will include a risk assessment.

    There is though a significant difference between a charity ride out and a few mates racing each other which appears to be the case in the story of the riders in north Yorkshire. These so called bikers not only knew the guy at the back was 2 up and so would likely struggle to keep with them as they rode with considerable enthusiasm but they also fled the scene when their mate crashed. Nice one guys, that’s cameradere for you.

    We do have a duty to other riders, to make sure we ride in a way that doesn’t give the powers that be a reason to legislate against us and to make sure that if something happens to one of your mates it’s not partly your fault and that you have the human decency to stay on the scene and make sure they’re ok. Yes each rider is in control of their own bike, but where does a group ride become a race? And who takes responsibilty for that transition? Perhaps this court case will help to answer some of those questions.

  2. April 9, 2011 8:54 pm

    Badly researched article. there is no 300 year old Joint Enterprise Act or any Joint Enterprise Act. this rather undermines the rest of the article.

    There was a group of bikers death by dangerous driving ‘test case’ in North Yorkshire in 2008. this pending case is nothing new.

    The bikers did not flee the scene as your ill-informed commentator has written. the rest of what he has written about the case is also inaccurate. some factual updates and a little about the previous case:

    • Back Roads Rider permalink*
      April 9, 2011 9:44 pm

      “ill-informed commentator” perhaps so but at least not afraid to offer an opinion and thus deserving of respect for doing just that.

      You are correct in your comment re “Joint Enterprise”, however for the purposes of this article the use of the word “Act” makes the concept being discussed easier to grasp.

      For reference:-

      “Joint Enterprise” is the name of a 300-year-old English common law that the police have successfully re-employed to fight gang violence. The principle underlying the notion of Joint Enterprise is that when a gang assaults or murders a victim, even those members who do not physically participate or strike the fatal blow, but simply lend encouragement and approval to the crime, are as guilty as the chief perpetrator and will receive similar prison sentences.

      In relation to “Joint Enterprise” being used to “fight the menace of bikers on our roads” – a quote recently overheard from a very senior police officer – perhaps we know more about the inside discussions at the Home Office, CPS and Department of Justice than you do.

  3. April 10, 2011 1:05 pm

    someone who invents facts isn’t deserving of my respect.
    common law isn’t statute law. the word Act imparts something completely different. for reference, you should see the recent HL case of R. v. Rahman rather than quote a factually incorrect telegraph newspaper article.
    it must be really useful inside info from the Department of Justice. that’s in Washington, yes?


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