Ireland celebrates first anti-spam conviction
4's A Fortune nailed
Custodial sentences may come to Ireland. The country's Department of Communication has expressed support for their application to spam offences – although Sweeney points out that this would require the new primary legislation to replace the existing Regulations, something that would likely take at least two years.
Sweeney's view is that there is no immediate need to attach a custodial sentence to spamming offences in Ireland. He says that complaints have been reducing since the 4's A Fortune investigation, that marketing companies are showing more awareness of their obligations.
If that changes in the long term, i.e. if home-grown spam becomes a bigger problem, it may be necessary to look at custodial sentences, he suggests. "The fine against 4's A Fortune was at the low end of the scale, but it was appropriate. It was a first offence and they did cooperate at a fairly early stage," said Sweeney. "I think the publicity was more damaging to them than the penalty."
In the meantime, it is unlikely that this action signals the start of a crackdown on Irish spammers. Sweeney is hoping for technical solutions to spam, not legal solutions.
Where it's home-grown email spam, it's usually been easy to resolve because it tends to be accidental; a one-off. "These are not cases that we're likely to take to court," he says. Repeat offenders would merit a stiffer penalty; but he points out that most email spam is coming from overseas. The spammers just move to the countries with laws that suit them – and all the Commissioners in Europe are powerless to stop that.