Fighting back – what the law says you can do

Bikers United
By Bikers United
September 18, 2018
Fighting back – what the law says you can do

Motorcycle and moped theft is a hot topic right now. Unfortunately, it’s not a London-only issue, but London does appear to ‘set the trend’, a trend that no-one wants to be a part of.

Right now, in London, some bikers are being forced off their mopeds, motorcycles and scooters by bike gangs. So what are you legally allowed to do to stop this?

We spoke to motorcyclist and legal eagle, Andrew Dalton from whitedalton.co.uk to crush the rumours and let you know once and for all, what you are and aren’t allowed to do.

Andrew Dalton says:

“This may be a bit London-centric and if people being pushed off their bikes to have their bikes stolen is not a problem for you, in your area, then I am happy for you but this is a real problem. 

So far in 2018 we have had 3 clients pushed from motorcycles by feral gangs, usually on fairly high capacity scooters and of these there were two “successful” thefts and one where the rider with a quick and aggressive mindset managed to keep hold of their bike.

So, apart from all the keyboard warriors who would “tear the heads off” four or six youths whilst straddling a bike whilst being taken entirely by surprise, what can you actually do? First of all do you really have a chance?  My view is that unless you are very handy, and have good and well-honed fighting skills then your bike can be replaced, but you can’t.  Let it go.

But if you take a hard line, you are big enough, hard enough and skilled enough in combat to get physical what does the law say? The urban myths are many, ranging from if you so much as upset a thief you will be sued to you are allowed to beat them to death with the bloodied stumps of their own arms.

What the law actually says is a person can use reasonable force in self-defence, defence of property, the prevention of crime or to lawfully arrest an individual.

So if someone pushes you off your bike and you believe that it is for theft you clearly can fight back but how hard?  Pushing the thief off your bike would be wholly reasonable, or twatting him across his head with your crash helmet or a good head butt from inside your crash helmet would definitely fall into reasonable, because the law does not expect that you “weigh to a nicety the exact measure of defensive action” but if having knocked the thief to the ground, with him pinned under your bike if you then proceed to stamp on his neck and head then you have leapt over the line of reasonableness.

Be careful though not to compare the level of force you can use to defend yourself in a street robbery to that which you can use against a burglar.  Because a burglar has entered your house, the test is very much lower on the burglary victim.  It is only where the householders force is grossly disproportionate that the criminal law will intervene.  If you are being robbed of your bike you can, lawfully fight back hard, but the key is knowing when to stop, but you can go quite a long way.

If, for example you got a compliant thief into a choke hold and you then asphyxiated the thief to death that would undoubtedly be disproportionate, but, if the thief died resisting your attempts to detain, awaiting the police, then in my view, you fall within reasonableness, and the law recognises the red mist of adrenalin and fear.

A Judge, applying the law, would have to direct the jury that the test for say, a motorcyclist up for GBH for the violent stopping of the theft of his own bike was and is “in a moment of unexpected anguish had the motorcyclist attacked on his bike, done only what he honestly and instinctively felt necessary, and if he says that is so with credibility then that is very potent evidence of reasonableness” – I paraphrase the common law position since 1971, which now forms statute law.

This does not however give legal succour for thief traps.  If the bike is left in a theft hot spot with four handy lads waiting in a Transit to leap upon any putative thief, then none of the above defences come into play, because this was not a surprising and terrifying situation for the four handy lads in the Transit van, it is something they deliberately set up so that they would not be given very much in the way of benefit of the doubt.”

So there you have it; you have the power to protect your property and fight back. However, no-one would blame you for letting your bike go, much as you’ll be hugely annoyed at the thought – it is ultimately covered by your insurance.

It’s worth noting that over 80% of motorcycle theft is from the home and although the thought of having your bike wrestled from you is a scary one, it is still quite a rare occurrence. If you’re worried, we recommend a motorcycle tracker, like the simple-to-install one from Monimoto.

You can relax knowing that if your bike does get pinched, you can inform the police, track it down, get it back and hopefully commit a couple of scrotes to jail at the same time.

  • agreed with most however the insurance on my bike lets me legally on the roads, If i get it stolen or get involved in a crash then i lose out big time the word being “access”, By the time i lose the access that brings the bike down to half of what its worth, granted it is old but looks new to me, not to mention a great rise in insurance should i buy another bike.All for something that’s not my fault.

  • Michael Reynolds says:

    I realise that fighting back comes with some risk. But no arsehole is going home unharmed if he,they, try mugging me. They will be hurt enough, to think about doing it again.

  • Fred says:

    So you cannot claim an acceptable defence if you set up a bait bike and clobber the thief because it was premeditated. What about the thief premeditating the crime in the first place. Premeditated or not the thief has to first try to steal the bike and having committed that crime surely deserves the same punishment whether it’s a planted bike or not.

  • Fish says:

    If there is a gang of lads attacking me for my bike, I might not be able to stop them, but at least one of them is going to his grave. Then the police can use the body to find out who did the attacking and hopefully recover my bike and put the rest of them in prison. Think of it as evidence gathering.

  • James says:

    Fred, the lawful purpose is self and property defense, not punishment

  • Robert Klee says:

    The cost of the tracker you mention is reasonable however I have to ask how effective they are in any case. Do the Police respond to calls from Tracker companies with any great alacrity? Are the Tracker companies really that effective?
    My further concern is that if, at the Police’s request they hand over the tracking data and the Tracker data includes details of speeding then the Police might use it against me.
    It seems to me that if the bike is indeed recovered it will require some level of repairs, minor repairs would disproportionate losses to me ( excess & more expensive future premiums) while major repairs would mean a bike I wouldn’t want back.

    • Bill says:

      Trackers do work, and the police do react to them. A friend had his bike stolen and called the police and the tracking company – the police immediately took him on a wild blue light chase of his own bike with the tracking company directing them. Eventually, they caught up with it abandoned in a side street.

  • Dan says:

    I’ve recently had my adored Tracer 900 taken from central London during the daytime. Gladly got it back, but if l caught the total idiots that did it.. the red mist would certainly come down.. my excess will go through roof, my premium will follow, plus the pain of being without the bike for two months while they fix the damage,…!

  • christopher Sedgwick says:

    I met a man in London who was worried enough about this issue that he carried a 25cm piece of rubber hose with his scooter. He claimed to have it with some spurious reason. Which all sounded plausible until I pointed out that he would need to be prepared to use it on an attacker then possibly lie in court to a judge as to the reason for carrying the hose. A man who lies to himself and then before a court must surely be a very low person. Fortunately he still has time to rise above these criminals and contemplate a better strategy.

  • Peter says:

    Why don’t police set bike thief traps? It would be so easy and they would catch of the local gangs that are carrying out all the theft. The public aren’t allowed to touch criminals these days. But I assume the police are still allowed to arrest thieves or has the law changed on that as well? Would be dead easy to set up and word would soon get out to the gangs. Maybe our police just can’t be bothered?

  • Peter says:

    In medieval times they used stocks to display local people that had committed crimes. Could we not come up with a modern way to shame the thieves. No point in wasting money on putting people in jail. If someone is caught red handed or displaying violent behaviour they could be placed locked up in stocks on the streets close to their crime area. In this way they would be shamed and the public would get to see who the criminals are. The shame they would suffer would put them off for a lifetime I’d imagine. An easy and cost effective solution but I’d imagine too many human rights people will say that it’s too harsh on the criminals.

  • Rob Stokes says:

    Of course the worry these days with the terrible level of street murders among the young is that a thief or thieves could be armed with knives. One “unlucky” stab from even a small knife can kill. If knives are pulled, run away. You are not Bruce Lee. If you can’t, I would imagine that a judge would look apon a high level of violence from the rider as reasonable due to being in fear for their life, not just the bike.

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