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QLD Bought Stolen Motorbike Off Gumtree - Should I Sue?

Discussion in 'Australian Consumer Law Forum' started by Brett Osborne, 22 June 2015.

  1. Brett Osborne

    Brett Osborne Member

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    I bought a motorbike off Gumtree for $3100 and spent $1500 in it too get it up to roadworthy. When I went to get it registered, the police came and told me it's stolen and took the bike. I still have all the details of the person that sold it to me. Can I sue them for my money back?
     
  2. Tim W

    Tim W Lawyer

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    Don't assume that the person who sold it to you is the thief.

    Start with a letter of demand - write to them and demand the return of your money.
     
  3. Rod

    Rod Well-Known Member

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    The police do not necessarily have the legal right to take the bike.

    Did you pay close to market rates for the bike considering it's condition?

    Are you connected in any way with the person who did steal the bike?
     
  4. Tim W

    Tim W Lawyer

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    Sure they do.

    The bike could be property that's the subject of an offence ("it's been stolen"), or
    the bike may be evidence of an offence (somebody other than the owner has it,
    and lawful acquisition/possession is unproven), which could found a charge
    such as "goods in custody", or "receiving".
     
  5. Rod

    Rod Well-Known Member

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    Hi Tim,

    I had thought, maybe erroneously, that an innocent third party buying property (eg stolen bike) at market prices may sometimes keep the property.

    Can't remember the law or quote. It is possible I'm thinking of US law :(

    I'm not saying the police can't recover any stolen property, just thought there were specific circumstances when they couldn't. Maybe I'm mixing it up with cases where they do not recover the property saying it is a civil matter because they were too lazy to do the paperwork themselves.
     
    Tim W likes this.
  6. Tim W

    Tim W Lawyer

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    I wonder if the "sometimes" you are thinking of
    could be the equitable principle of "bona fide purchaser for value without notice"?

    Given the available facts* I am not sure that equity will be much use here.






    ---------------------------------------------
    * You may also have heard of the principle of needing to come to equity with "clean hands".
    That is, to have done all one could have done to protect oneself, but been dudded anyway.
    In the case of private vehicle purchases, this would include making all possible checks on title to the vehicle (eg PPSR)
    before buying it. It is not clear in the original post whether this happened or not.
    Thing is, not making title checks, when one one could have, would be enough to rule out having "clean hands",
    and therefore rule out any help from equity.
     
  7. Rod

    Rod Well-Known Member

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    Hi Tim,

    Yes, that's the one and yes, know that the plaintiff needs clean hands in order to get to first base at court.

    So in this situation the police can claim the bike as evidence, leaving it to the purchaser to take action against the seller before the police hand back the bike to the original owner. If the plaintiff is successful I assume the court can award the bike back or damages.

    Any idea on which way the court normally handles this where all 3 parties are known (the final purchaser, seller of the property and original owner)?

    The notion of 'fairness' can be very subjective to us lesser mortals and it seems to me the fairest thing is give bike back to original owner, let final purchaser sue seller for damages and costs.
     
  8. Tim W

    Tim W Lawyer

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    The third party (the "innocent buyer", so to speak) has no role in the prosecution.
    That's a matter between Her Majesty and the accused.
    (as I said in an earlier post above, bear in mind that
    the person from whom our friend above bought the bike,
    might not be the thief).

    I am not sure that the court will consider the interests of a third party buyer
    in the course of a criminal trial for the theft of the bike.
    That said, a third party buyer may well have grounds for an action
    to recover his money from the seller.
    That's a (civil) matter between "the seller" and "the buyer".

    I do not see a scenario where the costs incurred by the buyer
    to get it roadworthy can be recovered.

    The bike itself still belongs to the person from whom it was stolen.
    I would expect that in the fullness of time, the bike,
    which for the time being is (potentially) evidence,
    will be returned to its owner by police, yes.
     
  9. Rod

    Rod Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for clarifying and yes, I was assuming the prosecution for theft was not part of this discussion and I am only querying the issue from a civil law perspective.
     

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