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Man in court on ‘wanton and furious’ cycling charge

Rare charge kicks in after child seriously injured in Bournemouth

A Bournemouth man appeared in court yesterday accused of wanton or furious cycling leading to grievous bodily harm.

According to the Bournmouth Echo, Philip Douglas Benwell, 38, is charged with colliding with a juvenile on Friday July 25, causing the victim life-threatening injuries.

Benwell is also facing a separate charge of causing grievous bodily harm during the incident.

Benwell spoke only to confirm his details. The victim - whose identity is protected by a court order - needed hospital treatment after the collision.

The case was adjourned until November 25, when Mr Benwell will enter a plea.

Wanton and furious cycling is the closest offence to dangerous driving that a cyclist can be charged with. It may sound slightly comical, but it’s usually used only in cases of serious injury or death caused by a cyclist’s actions.

The last conviction in the UK for a wanton and furious riding offence was that of Darren Hall, who was sentenced to seven months in jail after colliding with Ronald Turner in August 2008. Mr Turner later died of his injuries.

Mr Hall had been riding quickly down a hill in Weymouth when he went up on to the pavement on a blind bend to avoid a red traffic light.

Despite popular cycling mythology, a rider cannot be stopped for wanton and furious cycling. For the offence to kick in, an injury has to occur. In the wording of the The wording of Offences Against the Person Act 1861 (as amended by the Criminal Justice Act 1948):

“Drivers of carriages injuring persons by furious driving Whosoever, having the charge of any carriage or vehicle, shall by wanton or furious driving or racing, or other wilful misconduct, or by wilful neglect, do or cause to be done any bodily harm to any person whatsoever, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and being convicted thereof shall be liable, at the discretion of the court, to be imprisoned for any term not exceeding two years.”

A bike is considered a carriage under highways law.

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John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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