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Licensee convicted for illegal Sky use after acquittal overturned

By Ellie Bothwell , 28-Nov-2013
Last updated on 29-Nov-2013 at 10:18 GMT2013-11-29T10:18:40Z

Lawyer Paul Dixon: 'It is highly likely our client will appeal to a higher court'
Lawyer Paul Dixon: 'It is highly likely our client will appeal to a higher court'

A Plymouth licensee has been convicted for illegal Sky use after his acquittal was overturned.

Stanley Ashton, of the Friary Vaults in St Jude’s, Plymouth, was acquitted of allegedly showing Sky domestic broadcasts in his premises without a Sky commercial contract at Plymouth Magistrates Court in September.

However, on review of the case earlier this month, he was given a two-year conditional discharge and ordered to pay £850 in costs after the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) successfully appealed to the High Court. The case was reverted back to the Magistrates Court for the purpose of determining the issue of dishonesty.

Ashton was found guilty of three offences of dishonest reception of a television transmission – a Sky televised football match – without a commercial viewing agreement.

'The case is far from over'

However, Paul Dixon, partner of Molesworths Bright Clegg, who defended Ashton, said: "We are reviewing this latest decision of Plymouth Magistrates Court with Mr Ashton and it is highly likely that our client will appeal to a higher court. The case is far from over, and so it would be wrong for us to comment on the specific issues in Mr Ashton's case at this time. 

“Higher courts, including the European Court of Justice, have expressed their concern about the use of private criminal prosecutions to protect private commercial interests. In our view this case is yet another example of the oppressive treatment of hard working licensees throughout the UK."

'Flawed'

Stephen Gerrard, prosecuting manager at FACT, said: “We were concerned that the magistrate’s interpretation of the law at the original trial was flawed. It was decided that we should ask the High Court to review the decision and the High Court agreed with our judgment.

“This conviction sends out a clear message that people who use domestic viewing systems to show Sky programmes in commercial premises could end up in court and with a criminal conviction.”

Legal action

Alison Dolan, deputy managing director at Sky Business, said: “This case reinforces the message that licensees without a commercial viewing agreement, who are using any system that allows access to matches to which Sky has exclusive rights, will face legal action.

“Sky will continue to support FACT in prosecuting licensees who break the law to help protect the thousands of hardworking licensees who invest in Sky Sports to build their businesses and entertain their customers.”