James Daley: Cyclotherapy
Thursday 29 May 2008
I miraculously recovered my mountain bike from the police station last week, more than six weeks after it had been confiscated from some railings by Trafalgar Square in London. I never expected to see it again – and it was great to be reunited with it. But I'm still none the wiser as to why it was taken in the first place, and I am out of pocket to the tune of £40, having had to replace the lock that the police presumably destroyed.
The bike was taken at the start of April, while I was at the theatre. When I returned to pick up my wheels, all that was left was a note informing me that any bikes left on the railings in question had been taken to Belgravia police station. But when I turned up to collect it two weeks later (having been on holiday inthe meantime), there was no record of any bicycles being picked up that night, and no sign of it in Belgravia's bike graveyard underneath the station.
Having taken all my details, I was promised that my case would be passed on to the sergeant. But, three weeks later, I'd heard nothing. Given that Belgravia police station very rarely answers the phone, I took to calling the Metropolitan Police press office – who treated me with even greater contempt. As a journalist who never writes about serious crime, my calls to the Met press office are always brushed off by some rude PR, whose tone implies that I should stop wasting their time and let them get on with solving murders. Sure, bike theft is not exactly on a par with terrorism or knife crime, but that doesn't mean it's irrelevant. All I wanted to know was what law it is that gives the police the right to remove a locked bike from a public place. But no one seemed to have the answer.
Then, as luck would have it, my 143rd call to Belgravia was answered by someone helpful. He sounded genuinely concerned that there was no record of my bike, and took it upon himself to find it. Half an hour later he rang back, saying it had turned up in the bike graveyard – without a saddle. And that's how I finally found it. The saddle was tossed on the floor somewhere over the other side of the car park, but the bike was otherwise undamaged. I guess I'll never know what happened to it in those six weeks. Perhaps it was stolen by a policeman and then returned after I began to make enquiries. Or perhaps it's been sitting in the back of some police van, travelling the streets of London.
But I can't help wondering how many other people have run into similar police incompetence. All those bikes in the graveyard must belong to someone, yet some look like they've been down there for years.
My best guess is that most of these bikes – including mine – were confiscated under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which apparently gives the police the right to do what they like in the name of fighting terrorism. I'll be filing a complaint to the IPCC, but I doubt they'll even bother to write back to me.
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