Stiffer speeding penalties for leading rideout

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Motorcyclists at the head of a group of riders will face stiffer penalties for speeding under a crown court ruling.

Being the lead rider in a group is an aggravating factor making you partly responsible for speeding offences of those behind you according to the decision.

The ruling can be applied in any future cases where two or more motorcyclists riding together are accused of speeding. The head rider might be only a few mph over the limit but could be given the same penalty as the worst offender behind. 

Road traffic solicitor Robert Dobson said: “Any crown court decision can be stated in future cases. This is potentially a very dangerous judgement for motorcyclists.

“Riders in a group change position frequently.

“If you are riding at the front any group at excess speed, then the very fact you’re at the front is an aggravating factor.”

Ken Clark, 49, reached 85mph on his Yamaha R1 while leading a group of three riders on the 60mph A272 near Rogate, Sussex, last June.

The speed is within the usual threshold for a fixed penalty of three points and a £60 fine.

But Chichester Crown Court ruled he should receive the same penalty as a following rider accused of going 103mph.

Barrister notes on the ruling given to Clark after the hearing state: ‘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.’

The court rejected Clark’s appeal against six points, a £100 fine and £250 court costs.

Clark said: “This should have been three points and a £60 fine but so far it’s cost me £2,500 including solicitors’ bills and I have six points on a licence which has been clean for the last 24 years.”

Clark’s solicitor, Philip Somarakis, said 103mph was the speed reached by a police officer on an unmarked bike while tailing Clark’s two friends, but the prosecution accepted it was not possible to prove from video evidence that Clark himself had exceeded 85mph.

“The gist of the ruling is that to be a lead motorcyclist makes you somehow responsible for the actions of those behind you,” he added.

Gary Baldwin, former police motorcyclist and co-director of advanced riding school Rapid Training, said: “It’s a dangerous precedent to suggest you are now responsible for someone who’s in control of another vehicle.

“How do I control what they do? If someone is following me and I get in an overtake that they don’t, they may go faster to catch up but that is their choice.”

To read how the prosecuting cop posted pictures on a swingers’ website showing him astride a police bike, get MCN, on sale now. 

Steve Farrell

By Steve Farrell