Two years ago I attended BikeSafe with other members of the magazine and people from the industry. In doing so I was asked to describe my riding, which I did as ‘considered with excitable bursts’. Well, on the 9th November 2013 I had one of the aforementioned ‘excitable bursts’ on the M5 through Exeter hoping that the blue-skinned beast was not watching.
But he was.
I saw the marked police car approaching at speed in the fast lane. Obviously I pulled over into the slow lane at a steady 70mph as if I had always been there but was fooling no-one. Up came the blue lights prompting blue language inside my Shoei lid. I have been here before, some years ago at 93mph again on the M5 so thought I knew what to expect but was still shaking like a leaf, to the point I got into the back of the squad car with my rucksack still on my back. Very cool.
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To their credit the officers, who were armed, were not damning, even crediting me with ‘safe-ish’ riding, though at an excessive speed which they could not ticket. It was at this point they showed me the result on the Vehicle Average Speed Calculator and Recorder (VASCAR), 102.7 mph – without even having this officially pointed out I knew this was court, this was a ban, this would not be pretty.
After this I did nothing, just waiting for the paperwork that needs to reach you in six months if they intend to prosecute. As Christmas, New Year, January and most of February passed, I allowed myself to start to hope that I had got away with this. But sure enough in came the summons to Exeter Magistrates for 11th March. I did not have to attend but knew I really had to and so started to compile the response to court that would join my guilty plea.
In a call resembling ‘reaching for the Bat Phone’ I got straight onto Fast Bikes columnists White Dalton Solicitors. With 10 years service to the magazine and our readers if anyone could help tame the inevitable punishment it was these – riding legal eagles – and the advice I was given was invaluable. Guilt of the offence was without doubt, punishment unavoidable but the level of this will be calculated by the magistrates from the documentation you forward. I was not confident to personally make the case verbally in court, was in no position to have legal representation on the day and so this stage was all important.
After advisement the case I put forward was simple. I am guilty and deserve what is coming to me, but those around me would also suffer further through my punishment as a consequence of my actions. Throwing myself to the mercy of the court I made the point that I cannot do my job without a licence though a limited ban could be covered by annual holiday. A high financial penalty impacts directly on my family and dependents and none of this is their fault. So a letter from work, from my partner and my own, as well as all of my financial documentation was handed to the Magistrate (aka Maam), as I stood forlorn in the courtroom with a sickness in my stomach awaiting impending doom.
In addition to my documents were two pages of witness statement from the prosecuting officers which thoroughly covered the calibration of the VASCAR and I was immediately glad I hadn’t gone down the route of challenging the validity of that. The added “Apart from the excess speed no part of Mr Oakman’s driving caused me any concern” gave me some optimism.
As it turned out, the advice and instruction I received from White Dalton was gold. The benchmark for this offence is between a 28 and 56 day ban with a hefty fine. I have been disqualified for a fortnight and fined an amount that will keep me out of the pub for a couple of months, but I wont be selling a kidney.
Lenient the court may have been, but gotten away with it I certainly have not. I now have to look at my insurance premiums spiking and my partner doing all of the running around after the children leaving me at home to command household chores. I am bereft of cash, cannot do any Fast Bikes work on the road and have a bike in the garage which I cannot touch. On top of that were four months nervously opening the post, beginning to believe it would not appear until wham, back to earth with a bang and having to go to court, which if you have never experienced it utterly sucks.
So lessons learnt, three figures will now be saved for the track – as will any more spirited riding. Give myself more time to get where I need to be for the 20,000+ miles I cover on two wheels a year and if I ever fall on the wrong side of the law again – call White Dalton, not a service you ever want but great to know they are there when needed.
Thanks to: White Dalton Solictors
And the Prosecuting Officers who could have been utter gits but were far from it.