My bike was stolen and witnesses saw it being sold on an internet auction site. After a long investigation, the culprits are now inside, but I’ve still lost thousands of pounds for the misfortune of having my motorcycle stolen. As I know who the culprits are, would it be worth pursuing a civil claim against them for my losses?
I’ve had absolutely no joy getting a sensible reply from the auction company as to why they’ve knowingly allowed the sale of stolen goods and really feel the police should take steps to punish those responsible. Is it correct for the police to ignore this matter, or can they be compelled to take action against illegal activity?
Robert Wright, London
The police have no particular duty to press charges on anyone. They have a general duty to maintain the peace, and to prosecute cases, and they clearly prosecuted this case, as the thieves are now in prison. However, they cannot be forced to take any particular step.
You could bring a complaint through the Police Complaints Authority, which has a fairly wide discretion to make an award if they believe that the police have acted improperly or fallen below the standards which you as a member of the public might reasonably expect.
The internet auction site didn’t receive the stolen goods; they’ve merely provided a portal for these to be sold As I’m not an internet lawyer, the answer I can give you is pretty basic, but I don’t see that they have any particular duty, even though they could have been said to have assisted in the ‘conversion’.
I would strongly suggest that you invest around £100 on a lifestyle checking report on the thieves by a private detective agency. They will carry out a credit check and an assets check on the people who are currently in prison. If they own their own homes, or have other assets or a general good credit rating, then it’s worth suing them. If they have nothing, then it isn’t.
You’ll need to sue them in the county court, and as it is less than £5,000, it will be dealt with in the small daims court. All you need to say is what happened and what you lost, along with some evidence as to what you lost. In the light of the criminal conviction of the thieves, you won’t have to prove that they stole and disposed of your bike. All you’ll have to show is that you sustained losses.
Even if you just want to do it out of spite, take them to the small claims court, and then perhaps make them bankrupt afterwards. Personally, I would do it.