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Bike 'thief' in Japan walks free from court after convincing judge he was only borrowing it

Defendant, who had previous conviction for theft, repeatedly took a bike from housing complex where he lived

A man charged with bike theft in Japan has walked free from court – after convincing a judge that he was only borrowing the bicycle in question.

Japan Today reports that a judgment handed down at Fukuoka District Court last Monday found the defendant in the case not guilty.

The defendant had been riding a bicycle on 28 June when he was stopped by a police officer for questioning.

The suspect, who was on parole for an earlier theft charge, was arrested when it transpired that the bike he was riding did not belong to him.

Given his previous history, he would have been facing heavy penalties, says Japan Today.

At his trial, however, the 24 year old explained that following his release from prison, he had moved into a housing complex where he noticed that a bike had been left unlocked in the car park.

He used the bike for shopping trips for around an hour each time, and would always return the bike where he found it.

On the day he was arrested, however, he had been using the bike for 12 hours.

But the judge said that his using the bike for half a day was “not beyond the scope of borrowing,” based on his previous riding.

The case has provoked much comment online, with one person saying, “This is the kind of case they would use in law school.”

Another pointed out, “What about the wear to the tyres, rims, and frame? He is shortening the life of the bike,” while another asked, “Is that judge okay?”

Following the decision, a prosecutor working on the case said: “After examining the ruling and consulting with higher agencies, we will respond appropriately.”

Fukuoka does have its own public bike share programme, called COGICOGI, which is open 24 hours a day – and, if the defendant in the case had used that instead, it would have saved a lot of time and money.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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