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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

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Judge hits out at Cumbria police tactics after man admits bicycle theft

A judge has criticised a police policy of leaving unlocked bicycle as “bait” in the hope that thieves might take them.

Peter Hughes photo
Judge Peter Hughes

Peter Hughes QC said such tactics as those used by officers in Carlisle could be seen as the police acting as agents provocateurs – enticing people to commit a crime when they might not otherwise have done so.

“Their job is to prevent crime, not create it,” he said.

Judge Hughes was speaking as he sentenced a 26-year-old man for stealing a bicycle which the police had fitted with a tracking device and left in the area of Scalegate Road, Upperby.

Stewart Story fell for the ruse and took the bike and at the city’s Crown Court pleaded guilty to a charge of theft.

But after hearing details of the case – and, particularly, what the bike was doing there in the first place – the judge gave Story, of Buchanan Road, Upperby, an absolute discharge.

And he chose not to punish him for breaking the terms of a suspended sentence by committing the new offence.

That sentence – 12-months in prison, suspended for two years, and 150 hours’ unpaid community work – was passed on him in March when he pleaded guilty to punching, kicking and stamping on his girlfriend Chantelle Cannon in a drunken rage.

The judge said that “there must be a better use of police time” than laying out bicycles as bait for thieves. “Some people would think it is close to the police acting as agents provocateurs,” he added.

Judge Hughes said that if he had had the power he would have ordered the police to pay the costs of prosecuting Story.

Police in Carlisle have been placing their own mountain bike in theft-hit areas as part of ongoing operations to tackle bicycle thefts.

They are watched by undercover officers as part of efforts to catch those responsible for the crimes and have warned thieves they cannot be sure about whose bike they may be stealing.

As part of their campaign to increase bike security awareness, police have also held several events where security advice and bike marking kits have been handed out to put off thieves.

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