A teenager was shocked when police refused to chase joyriders who had just stolen his moped - because the thieves were not wearing helmets.
Max Foster believes bike thieves are 'laughing' at police
Max Foster, 18, called 999 when he saw three youths take his machine in Bath in the early hours of Tuesday.
He claimed an officer told him they could not give chase in case the unprotected thieves fell off the bike and sued the police.
But police said the safety of offenders and the public had to be considered.
'Laughing at police'
But Mr Foster said he was appalled by what he was told by the officers.
"They said: 'If they haven't got a helmet on, we can't pursue them. We can't risk a law suit. We'd get sued if they fell off and hurt themselves,'" said Mr Foster.
"I can't believe it, to tell the truth, because all the bike thieves know that, so that's what they do and they're laughing at the police. They've found a loophole in the law that means they can do exactly what they want."
But Insp Tim House of Avon and Somerset Police defended the decision.
"We must first consider the safety of the public at large, the time of day, number of people around, are there any pedestrians or young children playing nearby?" he said.
"The pursuit police make us consider all those options in sequence and then an officer in the force control room will decide on appropriate action."
Heating engineer Mr Foster, from Coleford in Somerset, was staying with a friend in Bath where he worked, at the time of the theft.
He was woken in the early hours by the sound of its engine and peered out to see the youths riding up and down the street on his £1,200 Gilera moped.
After alerting police, officers arrived just minutes after the trio sped off.