UK judge excuses bait bike thief, criticizes police

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Imagine this English judge carefully placing his wig on a shelf and hanging his robe in the closet after work, then discovering that the bicycle he was going to ride home had been stolen.

Judge Peter Hughes

Maybe he’d see bike theft differently.

Instead, judge Peter Hughes recently criticized police in northwest England’s Cumbria county for putting out a bait bicycle fitted with a tracking device. Then, he threw out the charges against a man charged with stealing the bicycle.

According to the local Times & Star newspaper:

The judge said that “there must be a better use of police time” than laying out bicycles as bait for thieves. “Some people would think it is close to the police acting as agents provocateurs,” he added.

Judge Hughes said that if he had had the power he would have ordered the police to pay the costs of prosecuting [the suspect].

Apparently the judge doesn’t know that bike theft is as big a problem in the UK as it is in many other countries, including the US. The International Crime Victims Survey found that a bicycle is stolen every minute in the UK, and bike owners are more likely to have their transportation stolen than are motorcycle or car owners.

It’s one of the major deterrents to people using bicycles as transportation, according to

Police have used bait bikes in the US, especially around college campuses. The stories on arrests don’t follow the cases through the courts, so it’s hard to know whether the thieves receive stiff sentences.

Pegasus Technologies of Sacramento has created a GPS tracking product called SpyBike that’s available to the general public for installing on privately owned bicycles. The official law enforcement version is called BaitBike.

Always copy down your bicycle serial number (usually under the bottom bracket), and always report a stolen bike to police. Also, you can report the serial number to the Stolen Bicycle Registry.

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