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Michael Arundel;told police officer who said he was breaking the law: “Here, chief, you’re joking aren’t you?”

A Middlesbrough man who was unable to ride his bike in a straight line as he swigged on some cider has been given a conditional discharge after he was charged with riding a bicycle while drunk under a law dating from Victorian times.

Police officers saw Michael Arundel wobbling on his bike in the town’s Grove Hill district on the afternoon of Sunday 7 May, reports Gazette Live.

But when they stopped the 37-year-old and told him he was breaking the law, he said: “Here, chief, you’re joking aren’t you?”

Under section 12 of the Licensing Act 1872, it is an offence for someone to be “drunk while in charge on any highway or other public place of any carriage, horse, cattle, or steam engine, or who is drunk when in possession of any loaded firearms.”

The law is occasionally used to prosecute cyclists who are found intoxicated while riding their bikes, and even drivers of mobility scooters or golf buggies, which do not fall under drink-driving legislation.

> "Drunk" cyclist who had been pushing bike was locked up by police under 19th Century law, court told

Amrit Jandoo, prosecuting at Teesside Magistrates’ Court acknowledged that it was an “unusual case, not a case that features often at this court.

“There are no guidelines for sentencing. The legislation goes back to the 1800s.”

He continued: “They observed the defendant on Thorndyke Avenue riding a pedal cycle.

“They saw him pausing to take a drink of Strongbow cider. They pursued Mr Arundel who was unsteady on his feet and not in full control of the bicycle.

“He appeared not to be able to ride in a straight line.

“The officers stopped him and spoke to him - he could barely balance himself.

“He said, ‘what do you want?’

“When he was informed that he was going to be reported he said, ‘Here chief, you’re joking aren’t you?’ and went off on his bike.

“This was in public on a Sunday in plain sight. He was not in control of that bike.”

John Spooner, speaking on behalf of Arundel, who admitted the offence, said that his client was unaware he had broken the law.

“It was a Sunday, he was out and didn’t feel himself that he was doing any harm,” he told the court.

“It’s just one of those offences that has been committed for no apparent reason.”

As well as giving him a conditional discharge, magistrates also ordered Arundel to pay costs and charges totalling £60.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.