Penny farthing thief spared jail

PUBLISHED: 14:38 09 April 2014 | UPDATED: 14:38 09 April 2014

Exeter Magistrates Court

Exeter Magistrates Court

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A Honiton man has avoided jail for stealing a penny farthing on Christmas Day and riding it home – 14 miles away.

Tipsy Robert Bastin stole the old-fashioned bike from the garden of a house in Honiton and pedalled all the way back to Exeter where he was living at the time.

Exeter Magistrates’ Court gave the 20-year-old an 18-month community order with supervision and was ordered to undertake the thinking skills programme.

The court heard he had enjoyed a Christmas drink with his brother when he realised he could not get home on Christmas night and was stranded.

After making it home Bastin then decided to sell the £350 penny farthing on E Bay - but it was the police who ‘bought’ it as they investigated the theft of the old fashioned bike.

Defence lawyer Peter Woodley told Exeter magistrates court:”He was trying to get home. He had had a Christmas Day drink with his brother and it looked like a good idea.

“But a penny farthing is not the easiest thing to return to its owner.

“He was in drink. He saw the back wheel sticking out of a bush, bizarrely not the larger front wheel. He pedalled it to Exeter. At that time of year, Christmas night, no one noticed. It was quite Dickensian.

“Stupidly he tried to sell it.”

Jobless Bastin put it on E Bay two weeks later and it was the police who ‘secured’ it and bought it and returned it to its owner.

On his e Bay listing he claimed ‘not really my thing, prefer my unicycle’.

And he said he had only used it three times since new.

Police saw the listing and successfully bid £75 for it - the penny farthing had cost owner Dale Trott £350.

He accepted the bid and insisted on cash and the ‘buyer’ collected it from his home – and he was nabbed and bike returned to Mr Trott.

Bastin did not say whether he rode the penny farthing along the main A30 dual carriageway between Honiton and Exeter. But he was also in trouble for taking a motor bike along the same road and going through a red light and No Entry sign as police tried to stop him.

Bastin, of Honiton, admitted stealing the old bike which he did while on bail for other offences. He also admitted aggravated vehicle taking on December 6.

Exeter Magistrates Court heard that Bastin was riding a much more powerful Kawasaki motor bike at 5am on the A30 near Exeter airport at speed - 68mph in a 50mph zone.

Prosecutor Philip Sewell said police saw his and he was riding in an ‘erratic manner and was wobbling’.

They could not pursue him down the No Entry road but he was later arrested.

Police did not pursue him because they felt it would be unsafe to do so but Bastin was arrested but denied any offences. But he was trapped when police found his clothes and DNA from his motor cycle helmet that he wore.

Mr Woodley said the aggravated vehicle taking offence happened at 5am when the main road was ‘relatively clear but said it was not the ‘worst case of excessive speed’ or dangerous driving.

The solicitor said:”He went out for a drive and used the bike. He wasn’t familiar with it and wobbled a couple of times. He rode through a red light and a No Entry sign at excessive speed – but it was a quiet time of day. He was not being pursued by the police.”

He said the homeless and jobless labourer was not coping with life over Christmas after losing his job and splitting up from his partner and young child.

“He had no money and was not thinking straight,” said Mr Woodley who said the court had the power to imprison him for a maximum of 12 months.

He said Bastin was stressed and ‘acted impulsively and stupidly’.

Bastin was also banned from the roads for 18 months, ordered to carry out 40 hours of unpaid work and told to pay the £75 compensation the police paid for the penny farthing

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