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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 joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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Hirsute | 3 years ago

It was just resting in my account.

AidanR | 3 years ago

Given that the conviction rate at trial in Japan is 99.4%, he must have had a genuinely strong case.

Velo-drone | 3 years ago

Based on the descroption of what happened, I would not call this theft.  I'd be annoyed if it were my bike, for sure - but I wouldn't view it in the same league as someone taking my bike to sell it or to take to their own property to keep entirely for themselves. 

What he did was certainly rude, but I'm not convinced I'd want it even to be criminal behaviour - it doesn't sound to me that it is something that should require the cost and the force of the legal system to resolve - a frank discussion should be the first port of call - and if they then continued the behaviour after being asked to cease, then it might be time for recourse to the law.

Then again, if my bike was disappearing for an hour at a time on a regular basis, I'd probably get a lock first of all!!

AlsoSomniloquism replied to Velo-drone | 3 years ago

I think the point was a known thief was stopped for something by the Police and it transpired the bike wasn't his. So the owner didn't even know until the Police spoke to him about it. And TBH, his excuse was he normally used it for an hour at a time but this case, he was on it for over 12 hours. I would be interested to know how he proved he had "borrowed" it regulalrly before as it doesn't say in the original article.

mdavidford | 3 years ago


“What about the wear to the tyres, rims, and frame? He is shortening the life of the bike,”

Because rims and frame are among the most consumable parts of the bike...

AlsoSomniloquism | 3 years ago

Surely the person who owned the bike should have been asked if he was ok for the tealeaf to borrow it. If he was then not guilty, if he wasn't then guilty. Shouldn't have been the judges call at all. However I don't know what Japans legal system is like so.

OnTheRopes replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 3 years ago

Nothing about permission required according to the definition
Learn to pronounce

take and use (something belonging to someone else) with the intention of returning it.
"he had borrowed a car from one of his colleagues"
take for oneself
help oneself to
use as one's own

AlsoSomniloquism replied to OnTheRopes | 3 years ago

Dictionary definitions and legal rulings are two different things. For example on checking again (and suprisingly this question is asked lots) that California have a specific law against it.


It wouldn't quite be theft; California theft, like theft in many places following English legal tradition, requires intent to permanently deprive the owner of property. However, it fits section 499b of the Penal Code to a T:

499b. (a) Any person who shall, without the permission of the owner thereof, take any bicycle for the purpose of temporarily using or operating the same, is guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall be punishable by a fine not exceeding four hundred dollars ($400), or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding three months, or by both that fine and imprisonment.

Sriracha | 3 years ago

I guess it's open season on "borrowing" the judge's car.

ChasP replied to Sriracha | 3 years ago

In this country there's the crime of taking without owners consent for motor vehicles, possibly to get round this excuse?

AlsoSomniloquism replied to ChasP | 3 years ago

Also because the taker wouldn't be insured to drive it. 

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