A Londoner who stole a crate of Lucozade while riding a two-wheeled hoverboard could make legal history in the UK as the first person to be prosecuted for using such a device on the sidewalk. According to a report from The Evening Standard, 19-year-old Omaree Lindsay has been charged with theft and driving a "self-balancing scooter" on a public footpath — which can be prosecuted as an offense under the UK's Highway Act of 1835. CCTV footage published last week shows Lindsay entering a shop in Mitcham on a hoverboard before leaving with the pack of energy drinks.
Although it sounds strange to prosecute someone under legislation nearly two centuries old, as FullFact points out, the law in question bans any form of "riding on footpaths" and has been brought up to date a number of times since it was instated in the Georgian era.
Prosecuted under the Highway Act of 1835
In 1879, for example, a judge declared that the Act also applied to bicycles, noting that "the furious driving of a bicycle is clearly within the mischief of the section." And in 2011, it was used to successfully prosecute someone for riding a Segway on a public footpath. Although it was argued that the law couldn't apply to such a modern invention, the judge in the case ruled: "The fact that Parliament in 1835 could not have had the Segway in mind is true but irrelevant."
In October this year, London's Metropolitan police reminded the public that the Act could also be applied to the use on public paths of all "self-balancing scooters" — a product category that includes Segways, mini Segways, hoverboards, and electrical uniwheels. Whether or not Lindsay's case will be the first prosecution under this application of the law is difficult to say for certain, but seems probable.
A report from The Sunday Times using Freedom of Information requests found only one previous arrest for using a "self-balancing scooter" in 2011, and although it was not mentioned whether the vehicle was a hoverboard, it's unlikely that it was given that the devices only became popular in 2014. Speaking to The Verge, the UK's Crown Prosecution Services said it was also unsure about whether the case was a first, but noted it was "possible."
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