Pirate site student pays £20,000 to US

 

A student who ran a website where users could stream pirated films has “avoided a conviction” after paying £20,000 to US authorities, his lawyer has said.

Richard O'Dwyer, from Sheffield, ran the TVShack website hosting links to pirated films and TV programmes.

But after a court hearing in New York, the 24-year-old avoided extradition and conviction by signing a Deferred Prosecution Agreement.

As a result he paid £20,000 to the authorities, representing the profits he made from TVShack between December 2007 and November 2009.

The money will be distributed among victims whose copyrights were infringed by TVShack.

Mr O'Dwyer's lawyer, Ben Cooper, said it was "a first" in extradition cases.

Mr Cooper, of Doughty Street Chambers, said: "Richard O'Dwyer is very happy to put this behind him.

"He has avoided extradition and will avoid a conviction.

"The solution reached is pragmatic and allows Richard to finish his final year at university and get on with his studies at a crucial time in his life. We are grateful that the US recognised it was in everyone's interests to find a practical solution.

"So far as we know this is a first in extradition cases - and a sensible solution for UK defendants faced with an ever-growing extra-territorial reach of US prosecutions.

"I expect this mechanism will be used by UK defendants in future US extradition cases now the precedent has been established and at least until the Government introduces the promised forum amendment into the Extradition Act 2003."

Under the agreement, Mr O'Dwyer must also not break any US laws, "associate only with law abiding people" and work regularly in a lawful occupation.

His mother, Julia O'Dwyer criticised the British government for using "rotten extradition law".

"We are very pleased and relieved to have been able to resolve this matter.

"We would like to thank the prosecutors who have been willing to engage in dialogue and recognise that this conduct did not merit the extradition, incarceration and criminalisation of my son.

"However had anyone communicated with us directly from the outset, raising their concerns, this matter could have been dealt with over two years ago without the threat of extradition, which in my view is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

"Sadly, the UK government was happy to allow Richard's extradition to proceed, just like they have with others similarly accused of conduct in Britain, committed without ever setting foot in the US.

"The Government is using a rotten law which was designed to bring fugitive offenders back to the place where a crime was committed, not for outsourcing our criminal justice system to another jurisdiction.

"I feel very sorry for those people and their families who have not been as lucky as ours and who are still suffering under this rotten extradition law."

Earlier this year Home Secretary Theresa May approved Mr O'Dwyer's extradition, which he appealed.

On November 28 a deal was struck at the High Court in London to avoid him being extradited and led to him signing the three-page deferred prosecution agreement, the BBC reported.

The Sheffield Hallam university student could have faced jail if convicted of the allegations, which were brought following a crackdown by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

The agency claimed the TVShack.net website earned more than 230,000 dollars (£147,000) in advertising revenue before US authorities obtained a warrant and seized the domain name in June 2010.

It is thought Mr O'Dwyer will return to the UK with his family today.

PA

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