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Case against suspected bike thief collapses after police sell the evidence

"Astonishing state of affairs" says judge, demanding written explanation of "lamentable" blunder...

A case against a suspected bike thief collapsed when it emerged police had botched up by selling the bike that was supposed to be presented as evidence against him.

At Carlisle Crown Court John Anderson, 29, was found not guilty of handling stolen goods on the direction of Judge Paul Batty QC, reports the News and Star.

Anderson had pleaded no guilty to the offence which was alleged to have been committed on April 29 2014.

He was accused of being in possession possession of a bike, bike frames and wheels belonging to the Ainfield Cycle Centre, Jacktrees Road, Cleator Moor.

The shop was broken into last year and goods valued at £2,500 were stolen by persons unknown.

Police subsequently recovered evidence relating to the case, including a bike, from a property in Cleator Moor.

But police inadvertently sold the bike at an auction, leading to an embarrassing climbdown by the prosecution.

Prosecutor Gerard Rogerson told the court: “On April 1 the Crown (Prosecution Service) notified Anderson, of Melbreak Avenue, Cleator Moor, that a full review of the file had taken place in the light of a highly unfortunate incident in which exhibits had inadvertently been sold by Cumbria police."

As a result, the prosecution decided to offer no evidence and the court had no choice but to find Anderson not quilty.

Judge Batty replied: “To say it is ‘unfortunate’ is an understatement. It is an astonishing state of affairs and I require a full written explanation from the officer in the case as to why this lamentable situation has arisen."

Shop owner Raymond Agnew was astonished when the bike he'd thought in custody as evidence was brought into his shop.

He told the Daily Mail: "I recognised the bike straight away and asked where he had bought it. He said he'd got it from an auction and a quick check of the frame confirmed it was the bike I'd last seen at the police station.

"I rang the police and the detective in charge of the case knew nothing about how the bike wasn't still in storage.
'It was mystifying but now the truth has come out I think it's beyond belief that it was auctioned off by the police - and no one seems to know why.

"Of course the really frustrating thing is that the trial against the man who was accused of handling the bikes collapsed because there was no longer any evidence against him.

"I'd like to know where the money was spent from the sale of the bike because it certainly hasn't come to me, I hope the police will at least donate it to charity.

"There hasn't been a proper explanation of why it happened but they did ring to apologise about it, which wasn't much consolation."

A Cumbria police spokesperson said: "Cumbria Constabulary can confirm that a bicycle was mistakenly sold at an auction that was due to be used as evidence in court. This was an honest mistake which has resulted in a court case being dropped. We have apologised to the victim for this mistake.

"We have also conducted an internal investigation into why this occurred and have reviewed our processes in order to make sure that this does not happen again."

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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