A 29-year-old London man has been jailed for two years for selling stolen bicycles online, with an accomplice handed a 52-week jail sentence suspended for two years, following an extensive investigation by Metropolitan Police units funded by, and operated in partnership with, Transport for London (TfL).
Stephen Amewode, who had admitted making £11,000 from the sale of 33 stolen bicycles, five of which he said he had stolen himself, pleaded guilty at Blackfriars Crown Court to five counts of stealing a bicycle and to selling them in contravention of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
Besides the prison sentence he received, the Metropolitan Police said that Amewobe would be the subject of confiscation proceedings in an attempt to recoup the money he made from his crimes and to compensate the victims.
Liam O’Meara, aged 30, who received the suspended sentence, was also ordered to carry out 150 hours’ unpaid work and to compensate the victims of the two bike thefts that he had admitted carrying out.
The Metropolitan Police revealed some details of the investigation, which was carried out by the Safer Transport Command (STC) Payback Unit and Cycle Task Force, which it operates jointly with TfL.
The investigation began when it transpired that the frame number of a Brompton bicycle that had been bought by an unwitting purchaser from Amewode after the latter had advertised it for sale online identified the bike as having been reported stolen from Borough High Street in January 2011.
The Brompton was restored to its lawful owner, leaving the innocent purchaser out of pocket. He subsequently identified O’Meara as the person who had sold the bike to him.
Amewode was arrested in March 2011 and police discovered a number of pictures of bikes on his mobile phone [ed – thankfully not a criminal offence in itself or we’d all be in trouble].
Bike parts were seized from his house as well as a laptop, with forensic examination of the latter revealing that he had placed approximately 100 adverts relating to the sale of bicycles online. In the case of the 33 bicycles he admitted selling, adverts appeared online within two days of their being reported stolen.
Police were also able to link Amewode’s mobile phone to that of O’Meara, who was arrested in August 2011. The pair admitted having carried out the bike thefts in the boroughs of Camden, Westminster and Southwark.
Acting Chief Superintendent Paul Stalker of the Safer Transport Command commented: "This sentence and impending confiscation hearing demonstrates the Safer Transport Command's commitment to tackling cycle theft in the capital and how we are using the full range of tactics to bring offenders to justice and make them pay."
Siwan Hayward, Deputy Director of Community Safety, Enforcement and Policing at TfL, added: “As the number of cyclists continue to grow in the capital we will work with our policing partners to minimise bike theft, ensuring that anyone who does commit cycle crimes is caught and given the harshest penalty possible.”
While the custodial sentence imposed on Amewode sends out a clear message that the police and courts are prepared to be tough on bike theft, the fact is that vast majority of reported cases in the capital go unsolved.
In 2010 alone, there were more than 21,000 bicycles reported stolen in the Metropolitan Police area, and as the Guardian pointed out last year, across the UK as a whole it appears that police are only notified of one in five thefts to begin with.
Many cyclists will welcome the sentences handed down in this case, but coming after a week in which two drivers found guilty of killing cyclists through their careless driving each received a community order rather than a prison sentence, it does underline the discrepancy that some perceive in sentencing when it comes to crimes against property and crimes against the person
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.