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Amateur cyclist paralysed in fall due millions in damages after Norwich instructor ruled to blame

PUBLISHED: 13:56 10 November 2016 | UPDATED: 13:56 10 November 2016

Mountain bike instructor Leon MacLean. Picture: Ian Burt

Mountain bike instructor Leon MacLean. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant © 2013

A solicitor left paralysed after falling on his head during a mountain biking course is in line for millions in compensation after his instructor was ruled to blame.

Asif Ahmed paid £79 for a beginners’ course in the Surrey Hills four years ago but now faces the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

The qualified bio-technologist, engineer, barrister and solicitor hit his head after hurtling over the handlebars on notoriously steep Holmbury Hill.

Mr Ahmed, 47, of Greenwich High Road, sued instructor, Leon MacLean, of Edinburgh Road, Norwich, over the March 2012 tragedy.

And he is now due millions in damages after Mr Justice Jeremy Baker ruled the instructor 80pc to blame for the tragedy.

Mr MacLean, a former primary school teacher with a “passion for mountain biking” was not “a reckless or authoritian individual”.

But the judge ruled that he was negligent in “encouraging” Mr Ahmed to ride “at speed” down the sharp slope without first assessing his biking skills.

Describing Mr Ahmed as a “novice rider”, the judge said he “should have been warned” not to take the most difficult route down the hill.

Mr MacLean had exposed him to “a serious risk of harm” and sent him down a slope that was “beyond his capacity to ride down safely”.

The instructor’s lawyers earlier insisted that he was not “cavalier or gung-ho” and never put pressure on his students to go beyond their safe limits.

The court heard earlier how Mr Ahmed came to grief during his descent of a tough route known to cyclists as ‘Barry Knows Best’.

He was injured when his front wheel suddenly jammed on ‘what looked like a clumpy, grassy piece of ground’.

He came off his bike head first over the handlebars and impacted on the front of his head, just above the forehead.

Mr Ahmed, who still works as a senior lawyer for Philip Ross Solicitors, is ‘educated and articulate’ and ‘not a thrill seeker’, the judge was told.

He had been riding a mountain bike for years but this was the first time he had any training and he was a novice when it came to sharp descents over rough terrain.

Ruling on the case, the judge said Mr MacLean was an “enthusiastic, easy-going” teacher, who had “a tendency to be over-optimistic” about some students’ abilities.

When the group met up in a car park before the tragedy, he appeared to have made no assessment of each student’s cycling skills.

The judge accepted that there was nothing necessarily wrong with taking students “out of their comfort zone”.

But Mr MacLean had given Mr Ahmed false confidence in his abilities despite warning signs that the hill would be too much for him.

Finding the instructor 80pc to blame, the judge said he had “failed to carry out his tuition with reasonable skill and care”.

Having already been slowly down the hill once, Mr Ahmed was sent down again and Mr MacLean “encouraged him to do so at speed”.

Mr Ahmed, the judge ruled, was 20pc responsible for his own misfortune in failing to raise doubts about his own abilities.

As an adult with some biking experience, he had not “abdicated complete responsibility for his own safety” to Mr MacLean.

He may also have felt “peer pressure” from other students to head down the toughest part of the hill, rather than take an easier “chicken route”

The judge praised the accident victim for the “considerable dignity” with which he gave his evidence in court.

Mr MacLean, he added, is still a leading mountain biking instructor and there was “no reason to believe” he was not a competent one.

The amount of Mr Ahmed’s payout has yet to be assessed but it is likely to be more than £3 million.

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