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Herts 16-year-old phoned to say his bike had been stolen - but no official report was filed

A Hertfordshire teenager is said to be ‘stunned’ after police found his £900 BMX bike which had been stolen, but told him that due to an error in paperwork they were unable to reunite him with it.

Harry Hughes, aged 16 and from Wigginton, told Hemel Today: “I got all excited, thinking I was going to get my bike back, then I got told the people who nicked it still had it.”

His custom BMX bike and a friend’s mountain bike had been stolen from Elizabeth Drive in Tring during the early hours of Thursday 3 October.

Later that day, Harry called the non-emergency police number, 101, to report the theft and was put through to Tring police station.

The duty officer he spoke to took down the teenager’s details and promised to get in touch if police discovered the bikes. However, it appears that the officer did not log the report as a crime.

When bikes matching the description Harry had given were discovered by police, the lack of an official record on the police computer system and absence of a crime reference number, meant that police were unable to retrieve them.

“I’m really angry,” Harry reflected. “That person at Tring station needs to go back to police school. I thought they were going to follow standard procedure.”

A spokesman for Hertfordshire Constabulary commented: “We were made aware of a possible theft of two bikes in Tring, but as it was not officially reported to us as a definite crime until after the bikes had been recovered, it was not crimed through our system.

“The investigation is still ongoing and we are doing everything we can to rectify this situation and return the bikes to their rightful owners.”

The circumstances in which police discovered the bikes were not reported, nor is it clear whether they were in the possession of a person who may have taken them from outside the address in Tring.

Police powers to seize and retain property are the subject of Code B of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which places strict limitations on what officers are and are not permitted to do.

In this case, without an official record of the theft of the bicycles, police therefore had no powers to recover them.

Hopefully Harry and his friend will eventually get their bikes back, but in the meantime the moral of the story is that if you do find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to call the police to tell them your own pride and joy has been stolen, make sure you get a crime reference number.

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.

15 comments

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argotittilius [23 posts] 2 years ago
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Old Bill doesn't seem to always take bike-related incidents as seriously as he should.
Hit by a van last week, and after being taken straight to hospital, it subsequently took two emails and three phone calls to get the relevant details from the police so I could make a claim on the driver's insurance for my brand new bike. One phone-answerer even told me it wasn't worth it as the 3rd Party insurance didn't apply to bikes as they weren't "vehicles"  102

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Velo_Alex [73 posts] 2 years ago
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There's something very wrong when Police can find a bike they *know* is stolen, but won't return it, regardless of a paperwork c**kup, yet will confiscate bikes that they merely suspect *may* not belong to the person riding it, (has happened in Oxford and other places around the UK).

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Colin Peyresourde [1752 posts] 2 years ago
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It's not just bicycles. I had my car broken in to. They tried to hotwire it and failed. One of the idiots left his phone in my car. I reported the incident to the police. And later delivered the phone to the police.

You would think, one phone call and the case is solved. Instead I suspect the phone and the everything else went into some bin next to the donut box. Now to be fair, the police are probably hand-cuffed and hog-tied by work loads and red-tape. But this doesn't get me justice or retribution for the vandalism to my car.

It's because of this that I can understand the vigilante activism in Birmingham.

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Sswindells [70 posts] 2 years ago
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Difficult one for the police... Almost...

If this teen reports his bike missing ( stolen or lost ) then a record would have been made. It looks like this is the case here. A loss report instead of a theft report was made otherwise they'd never have been able to identify the bike and it's owner.

Here's the foolish police fatal error. They find the bike and a "suspect" however because the bike isn't reported "stolen" they didn't take it.

The Police had a few simple option, arrest for "theft by finding". This means if a suspect finds an item and doesn't make reasonably expected enquiries to return it to the owner or the police they commit an offence. The test used is reasonableness. For example, you find 20p on the floor at a packed football stadium. Is it reasonable you will not find the owner? You are permitted to keep the 20p. You find a wallet with a name and pictures in it at the same football ground, is it reasonable the owner could be found by handing the item in? Then to not commit theft you MUST do so at the earliest opportunity.

So a £900 BMX shouldn't be too difficult a task and therefore the offence is complete. Arrest and seize the bike.

The other option, if the bike was reported lost, would have been to arrest the suspect for "handling stolen goods" because once again if the item was reported lost and someone else has it then a crime has been committed.

And finally, now they know it is a stolen bike, they have details of the suspect, they can return and arrest them for the original offence and seize the bike. If the suspect has rid themselves of it already then further arrest them for obstructing police / perverting the course of justice.

Either way the bike should be returned to the owner ASAP.

I've been a UK PC for 7 years. Its not difficult.

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Stumps [3357 posts] 2 years ago
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Its simple enough - if someone reports a crime, unless there are major concerns over the legitamcy of their account which is obviously not the case here, then it is a crime and gets recorded as such.

If its occurred overnight then i imagine its gone from a garage or shed because you dont leave a £900 bike outside do you and that means its a burglary or burglary otd which should be attended by a cop for forensic purposes and h2h.

Its not often i criticise the Police but on this one they have got it way wrong. Why massage the figures just so the Govt look good  102

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abudhabiChris [692 posts] 2 years ago
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"....it was not crimed through our system."

The real offence in this story is right there.

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fatbeggaronabike [823 posts] 2 years ago
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Well what did he expect he's a cyclist and therefore not entitled to the benefits that the law can provide, now if he were a motorist.

Running for cover.

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BarefootBrian [20 posts] 2 years ago
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When I had my Cinelli bike stolen from outside a shop many years ago I made strenuous efforts to find it, calling in to all the bike shops I knew & alerting them. It was very distinctive for many reasons. It was identified by the very one I had recently had it re-enamalled in when brought in for adjustments a few days later! But when I informed the police they took it and insisted on keeping it for several months "as evidence". Yet nobody was ever charged with a crime! I had to buy another bike just to keep on cycling to work.......

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oozaveared [941 posts] 2 years ago
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This is the triumph of bureaucracy over common sense. OK so the paperwork doesn't tally but what most people/organisations would do would be to correct the mistake with the paperwork to reflect the reality of the situation, not make the reality conform to the paperwork.

Surely the Chief Constable or even a local Sergeant should be able to cut through this crap, give the bike back to its rightful owner and make the paperwork right.

"Computer says no" is not good enough.

Even for their own sakes the policy of having a 101 number to save people calling 999 takes a hole in the foot on this. And what numpty thinks a stolen bike isn't a crime. A stolen anything is a crime. The Chief Constable ought to be hunting this person down and asking wht the bloody hell they think theft is if it ain't a crime.

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Guyz2010 [304 posts] 2 years ago
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British bureaucracy at its best!! Well done the Fuzz.

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JamesDulwich [9 posts] 2 years ago
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A similar thing happened to me about 15 years ago when I was a teenager, but with my motorbike. The police found some boys wheeling it along. The number plate had been ripped off. The police did a search, but because I hadn't reported it they let the kids carry on pushing it. I discovered this had happened when I went to report the theft that evening after returning from work/uni to discover the bike gone. The police must have been aware the boys were in the act of stealing my bike when they stopped them but were powerless to stop them or just couldn't be bothered to have stolen bike on their hands. Surely confiscating goods they believe to be stolen is a better idea. If they turn out not stolen then they can be returned with an apology.

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dafyddp [391 posts] 2 years ago
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"Difficult one for the police...
...I've been a UK PC for 7 years. Its not difficult."

And therein lies the problem. Common sense doesn't always prevail  3

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harman_mogul [228 posts] 2 years ago
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Thank you for this sensible and properly-informed answer, Sswindells.

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Overweightrider [6 posts] 2 years ago
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Police error? I don't think it was an error. The PC probably had instructions to record certain incidents of 'theft' as 'loss'. If the incident wasn't recorded as a crime, then it won't show up in the crime statistics and whoever is at the top can claim he/she has 'reduced' crime in the area.

Most stolen bikes would never be recovered, so no one would notice. Now they've found the bike, they're just making up excuses to cover up.

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j1mmy76 [67 posts] 2 years ago
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David Lloyd is Hertfordshire PCC.

I've alerted him to this on Twitter.
https://twitter.com/hertspcc
Awaiting reply.